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17 May 2009

Let Women Choose

Michelle Goldberg, author of a recent book on reproductive rights "The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World," has an article in the LA Times that summarises the complex arguments made in her book. Both address the conundrum that the world faces twin crises in its demographic future: soaring birth rates globally, with the great majority being amongst the poorest members of the poorest countries, and plummeting birth rates in several leading developed countries, notably Italy, Japan, Spain and Russia. It may seem crazy to assert at first that both problems are the result of women's lack of reproductive and economic freedom, but the arguments are pretty strong. This book is in my Wish List.
Here's an excerpt from the article:

Some social conservatives are using the threat of rapid First World population decline to argue for restrictions on women's rights. But that gets it precisely backward. In developing countries, lower social status for women is associated with higher fertility, but once societies become highly industrialized and women taste a certain amount of freedom, the reverse is true.
Fertility is reaching dangerously low levels in countries where social attitudes and institutions haven't caught up with women's desire to combine work and family. When faced with men who are unwilling to share domestic burdens, inflexible workplaces and day-care shortages, many women respond by having fewer children or forgoing motherhood altogether.

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