The next endangered species may well be … Georgians! (No, not the State in the south of the U.S., but the post-Soviet country in the east of Europe). Those of you who think the U.S. government is invading your privacy, wait ‘til you hear this!
While Japan and China have had a one-child law for decades, such is not the case for Georgia. Apparently birth and marriage rates have declined in Georgia in recent years and have reached the point that the country is close to a ‘demographic catastrophe’. In 2015, the population was 3.7 million, as compared to 4.9 million in 1993, or a decrease of 24%. Economic collapse and political turmoil before, during and after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, led to a mass exodus of people searching for jobs and a better life elsewhere. This explains part of the problem, but the trend appears to be continuing, as the population decreased by 15% since the 2002 census. The Jamestown Foundation, an institute for global research and analysis, projects that in another 50 years, there will be fewer than 1 million people living in Georgia, and they have dubbed this a demographic catastrophe. Meanwhile, neighboring Turkey’s population increased by 21 million, and Azerbaijan’s by 2.3 million. I guess we know where all the Georgians went.
In 2004, a couple of attempts were made to try to encourage couples to have more children. First, the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Ilia II, promised that he would personally baptize every child born to parents who had more than two children. And around the same time, the government began giving handouts for two years from the date of the birth of a couple’s third child. I am thinking a lot of Japanese and Chinese couples might like to move to Georgia! Apparently, though, the handouts have been pretty meager and are limited to areas where death rates exceed birth rates.
Now comes the really interesting part, the latest idea for a solution. While the Jamestown Foundation recommends that the government work toward job creation as part of the solution, Georgia’s DDF (Demographic Development Fund) believes that the problem is not enough people are getting married and having children. So, they decided that a government-supported dating service is the answer to the problem. “We will take a census of all singles, widows, widowers, the divorced and enter their details in a database,” Davit Khizanishvili, the fund’s president, announced. The DDF has already started to profile Georgia’s unmarrieds, entering personal details such as “weight, height and zodiac sign” into a database, which they say will be administered by a special agency. ‘Zodiac sign’? Seriously?
The government has been a bit less alarmed than either the Jamestown Foundation or the DDF, and believes they are being alarmist, but on the other hand, they are not stopping the DDF, at least not yet. Understandably, the citizens of Georgia have some concerns, among them that single people might now be taxed more than married couples, that the service would become a “national breeding program”, and that government would force people to get married. The government has neither supported nor opposed the idea of the database, but the Georgian Orthodox Church has come out in favour of it.
This just opens so many scenarios in my mind. So, you thought the U.S. government invaded your privacy? Turns out, though, this is not the only such program in existence. Denmark has historically low birthrates, and in 2015, a travel agency, Spies Travels, in conjunction with wannabe-grandmothers, launched a program called ‘Do it for Denmark – Do it for Mom’. In one Spies Travel press release, they said “It turned out quite successful, we made the Danes travel more, have more sex and reproduce for their country.” The ad goes on with more, but as some of it is a bit more … um … graphic than I can get away with here, I will include a link and you can read it for yourself. There is also a video, which I did not watch, so let the viewer beware!
I have only one concluding remark to this whole thing: who knew?