- Europe english
Will winter finally end?
CCEE survey on demography and the family
Mothers, fathers and children from all over Europe share their experiences in the pavilions of the Fair of Milan where the 7th Meeting of the Families is under way (ongoing until Sunday June 3). Over twenty delegations are present: Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Erzegovina, Croatia, France, Georgia, Germany, England, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Czech Republic, Romania, Scotland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, Hungary, Albania, Belarus, Greece, Russia and Serbia, along with the representatives of the Council of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (CCEE) and of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community.
A cultural problem. The future of Europe in the framework of the so-called “demographic winter” was addressed on May 31 during the presentation of the volume “European Bishops on Demography and the Family in Europe” (Cantagalli ed.s) attended by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa, president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, vice-president of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE). “The drop in birth-rates – His Eminence said –isn’t only due to political and economic reasons. It is also the result of cultural and moral poverty, which largely anticipated the ongoing financial and economic crisis that is afflicting Europe”. The issue of “Demographic Winter” has become one of the priorities of CCEE, to which it dedicated the 40th plenary Assembly held in Zagreb in October 2010. The volume is a collection of the assembly’s debate, along with the results of a survey carried out in view of the meeting, with the participation of the Bishops’ Conferences of 47 countries. “Unquestionably, this demographic decrease – Cardinal Bagnasco explained – is affected by the family policies adopted by European countries. It is also influenced by widespread cultural climate, marked by the relativization of values and institutions, thus affecting personal and social behaviors”. The Church’s attention for the family based on marriage “springs from the awareness of the value of this incomparable and often mistreated anthropological structure, the only that enables us to be projected onto the future”.
The importance of political decisions. The bearing of the drop in birth-rates was highlighted by Gian Carlo Blangiardo, one of the authors of the research: “In the great majority of OECD Countries there are less than two children per mother: below the threshold that guarantees generational exchange. In the 1970s almost all countries registered higher rates”. As regards the initiatives adopted by European countries to address these themes, the researcher highlighted a very “diversified spectrum”. “However, the survey also shows that those countries where the majority of public resources are invested in welfare and dedicated family policies are marked by lower degree of concern”.
Which is the way out? “The solution doesn’t lie in the causes of our difficult present – concluded Cardinal Bagnasco –. It’s not by increasing consumption and having less children that economic recovery will take place. This will happen only with a radical revision of priorities. For this reason, with the support of a more conscious and practiced faith, Catholics must adopt a critical approach towards the dominating culture that has called into question values such as human life, the human person’s objective structure, freedom meant as moral responsibility, faithfulness, love and the family”. “The evolution of the continent’s population – concluded CCEE vice-president – is strictly bound to the question of the family”.
Total fertility rate in Europe is below 2 children per woman in fertile age. In countries with high immigration rates figures are less worrying (Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, France, Spain…). In countries with low immigration flows as in Eastern Europe, the population’s average ageing process is faster (as in the case of Slovenia, with a fertility rate of 1.2). In North European countries, notably Sweden, France and Iceland, also thanks to strong birth-support policies, birth rates mark a positive trend (over 2 children per woman). The number of European families without children is also increasing (41%) as well as those with a single child (27%). Less than 15% have two children while families with three or more children amount to 6%. Increasing numbers of children are born out of wedlock: 1 out of 3 in Europe and in some Northern and Eastern Europan countries, amounting to more than 50% of all births. In an ever-ageing continent, old people outnumber children. Over 30 million Europeans are over 80 years old.