“Reproduction of the species is not compatible with industrial society" (Kingsley Davis, 1937): New Zealand(NZ), a case-study english-speaking country (ESCS)

Ian Pool, University of Waikato
Janet Sceats, Portal Consulting and Associates Ltd.
A Dharmalingam, Monash University

Caldwell and Schindlmayr (Population Studies 2003, C&S) cite Kingsley Davis’ statement to explain low fertility in Western Developed Countries (WDCs). But among WDCs, USA and NZ have higher, near-replacement level fertility. Are they thus two societies that negate Davis’ assertion -- industrialised countries that can maintain fertility levels? Using NZ, we argue that today’s higher rates are due to factors that are unsustainable and thus support Davis’ case. Their genesis is NZ’s early economic modernisation and welfare state (1890s). As in other Neo-European ESCs, and despite NZ’s reliance on the export of pastoral commodities, this took a peculiar direction early in the 20th century. There were high levels of urbanisation, favouring neo-local parenting couples in owner-occupied, separate, suburban dwellings (vs high density rental). These suburban lifeways, centring around the “happy home” and marked gender-divisions in paid work and “homemaking”, reached their zenith in the Baby-Boom, reinforced by a very extensive, Scandinavian-style welfare state. The European-origin (Pakeha) population’s TFRs exceeded 4.0, reproductive polarisation was limited and parenting was at young ages. The only major differential was between Pakeha and Maori the indigenous minority, but, as in the US (Frejka’s 2004 response to C&S), ethnic minority fertility was not a significant factor in high national rates, and is not today even when Maori and other non-Europeans constitute 28% of the Total population. Today Baby-Boom memories drive reproductive aspirations, but its conditions are now unattainable. A Thatcherite revolution means that many of the welfare state props have been eroded, and to survive families need dual-incomes and dual-careers. Managerialist human resource policies lead to long working hours and poor work-life balances. Purchasing a family home is increasingly out of reach to young couples. Consequently, the percent of births delayed by couples exceeds WDC norms, thereby undermining the long-term maintenance of higher fertility rates.

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Presented in Poster Session 1

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