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Friday, 19 January, 2001, 18:01 GMT
How do we tackle Europe's population problem?

The German Christian Social Union leader Edmund Stoiber has recently said that people should be paid to have more children.

He's suggested a thousand marks per child per month.

This proposal comes in the context of two important trends in Europe today - an aging population and the debate about immigration.

What is the solution to Europe's population problem? Encouraging bigger families at home? Or allowing more immigrants in?

For this week's Europewide debate from Berlin, Europe Today's Mark Reid brought together the Oxford University demographer, David Coleman and the German MP of Turkish origin, Cem Oezdemir.


Was Mr Stoiber considering Germany's population?

Alexander Crawford, USA
Was Mr Stoiber considering Germany's population, or that of the current membership of the EU? I ask because Hungary, Poland, Turkey and other future members certainly don't have 'aging' populations. Once they are 'official' members of Europe their citizens will certainly be happy to move to Western Europe to take up the population slack. Moreover, they will not technically be immigrants any more than a Texan moving to New York is an immigrant in the US.
Alexander Crawford, USA

The world is too crowded and too populated for the available resources. Water, arable land, space. We should give financial incentives to adopt, not to bear more children.
Allison Rich, USA

In Singapore, our government is paying people to have more children. Yet, people are not having kids due to an ineffective child-care system. What we should think about is how to take care of these babies after they are born, not whether this proposal should be allowed.
Rudolph Wang, Singapore.

This development is irreversible

Andrej, Russia
This development is irreversible. Industrialised nations with bright, educated populations don't slide back to the dark times of ignorance and ten children per household when their fortunes decline, as the former USSR demonstrates. So, what is there to do? Nothing - we just have to accept that our civilisation is going to die out (with a different ethnic content, it will be a different civilisation).
Andrej, Russia

What is needed is a radical rethink of how we want our environment to be in a few years. We need to decrease our population, not increase it. We need to stop immigration to Europe, particularly the South East of England, and we must increase the retirement age to 75 since people are living to a much greater age.
Tom, England

I mentioned this to some of my German colleagues and their impression is that it is a silly idea. If you look at the make-up of people here in Germany it is apparent that the ethnicity has been changed by the influx of people and many legal immigrants are making up for the shortfall of population. That is without giving a 1000 dmarks per month per child
Mark, Germany (UK citizen)

Do we need more people?

Ed, UK
Do we need more people? Is there a case for paying people to have kids? There is a danger that some children would be thust into this world for purely financial reasons. Politicians should start to make preparations for a population decline. Ask the younger generation to pay for their own old age provision. Basically, no state pension for those in employment. A reduced population would have many benefits, not least of which would be lower land prices and less pressure on the environment. Why not take a stand for population reduction? That way we could ask the same of the Third World, and not look like hypocrites.
Ed, UK

Immigration is certainly one part of the solution but it poses its own problems with some people feeling threatened by a large influx of immigrants, and the obvious brain-drain on donor countries who need these workers. Increasing the retirement age is another option, or perhaps even a later retirement age, but with a shorter working week. Perhaps we should be happy that we finally have the control over population growth which poorer countries would love to have?
Michael Gahan, Ireland

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