La vieja y menguante Europa

Cuando el Secretario de Defensa de Estados Unidos, Donald Rumsfeld, se refirió recientemente a la "Vieja Europa", tenía razón, pero no en el sentido que intentaba expresar. En efecto, Europa es vieja y está envejeciendo cada vez más. En todo el continente, hay cada vez menos niños. Las tasas de fertilidad (la cantidad de niños por mujer en la población) han caído a 1.2% en Alemania e Italia. La tasa es aun más baja en España, de hecho, la menor de Europa. España es todavía una sociedad joven, pero una sociedad sin niños está condenada de antemano.

En contraste, la tasa de fertilidad de Estados Unidos es 2.4 y 2.2 en el Reino Unido. Estas diferencias son extraordinarias, particularmente en vista de las políticas de subsidios por maternidad mucho menos generosas que se aplican en EEUU y el Reino Unido, en comparación con Europa Continental. Francia se destaca en el continente con una tasa de fertilidad de 1.8, la que con seguridad es el resultado de años de generosas políticas tributarias para las familias de gran tamaño.

La migración es también una explicación importante para estas diferencias. Las mayores tasas de fertilidad en EEUU, el Reino Unido y Francia reflejan el gran número de familias inmigrantes en cada uno de estos países. Las tasas de fertilidad entre inmigrantes son por lo general más altas que en las familias nacidas en Europa o Norteamérica. Pero aumentar la cantidad de los trabajadores inmigrantes no necesariamente es garantía de un aumento de las tasas de fertilidad. Alemania, por ejemplo, tiene una gran población de trabajadores extranjeros, pero pocos se quedan allí con sus familias; la mayoría deja a sus niños en sus países de origen.

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