Declining fertility in Sri Lanka: Cause for alarm


Surveys reveal that 91 of 195 nations now have fertility rates below replacement level - currently defined as around 2.1 children per woman - leaving them facing a so-called baby bust. This has enormous socio-political implications as a nation in demographic decline - one where deaths outsmart births - has no viable future unless large-scale immigration is allowed.

It is well known that the once-powerful nation of Japan is fast sinking into insignificance - if not oblivion - because the 'making of babies' has fallen from fashion in that highly sophisticated nation. 'Electronic Sex' has replaced natural fornication and babies are a rarity. Among the European nations, the acceptance in very large numbers of young immigrants has mitigated the problem to some extent, but the future is ominous with the very old holding a fast-diminishing cohort of young citizens in their thrall as hard-working slaves. 

It was once thought that - in the context of developing countries at least - that the besetting problem was the overproduction of babies and the tremendous social cost of unbridled fertility. This is still true of some African countries, such as Somalia and Niger, where the average fertility rate is about six babies per woman with matching child mortality rates that are more than sufficient to tame the imbalance.

Sri Lanka was in this 'primitive' cohort in colonial times and in the immediate post-war years. Since the turn of the Century, we are fast approaching a state where the fertility rates across our island nation have plummeted, and are now below replacement - indeed large families are now seen only in ancient photographs of happy natives. If the replacement level is 2.1 babies per woman - we are in the danger zone (of demographic melt-down). Most women in our country now marry late, and greatly fear the burden of child-bearing and child-rearing. If the trend continues, we are lost as a nation, because we have annulled the very foundation of nationhood - a viable and fertile breeding population to replace the old and the dead. Like in many Asian Cultures, we in Sri Lanka regard death and reproduction as quintessentially in the arena of religion and subject to its arcane philosophy.

This is arrant nonsense - marriage, sex and the production of babies have political turns that intensify by the fay - and public or collegial discussion of human reproduction is a must in this day and age.


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