Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Will IVF Keep Us Young?

By Michael Cook

Talk of IVF as a solution for declining birth rates is a sign that governments are clutching at straws.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

With nations around the world failing to reproduce themselves, policy wonks now realise that too few children could be worse than too many. Without children, populations age rapidly; there are too few workers paying taxes to support the disabled and the elderly; an economic and social crisis looms.

A stable population requires a birth rate of 2.1. Many countries in Asia, Europe and Latin America have sunk far below this.

Conventional strategies for boosting the number of births include baby bonuses, family benefits, extended maternity and paternity leave, and more flexible working schedules for mothers. But even these fail to make much impact.

What else can be done?

The brain waves of desperate bureaucrats range from barmy to loopy. In 2012 Singapore (with a birth rate of only 0.78) declared that 9 August would be a national night of pro­creation. A syrupy rapper sang on a YouTube video: “I’m a patriotic husband, you’re my patriotic wife, let’s do our civic duty and manufacture life.” In Japan, local governments subsidise speed dating to help time-poor office workers find spouses.

Alas none of these gimmicks works, so it’s hardly surprising that countries with extinction on the horizon also consider subsidising IVF. Demographers say that no country’s birth rate has ever recovered after dropping below 1.5. Singapore’s is about 0.8;...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.