Wonder why millennials don’t want children? The climate emergency is a huge part of it

Anirudh Kannan

Some people say young adults are choosing not to have children because they are selfish – but that couldn’t further from the truth

Anirudh Kannan |

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Having children isn’t for everyone – especially when climate change and economic instability mean the next generation will face an uncertain future.

Millennials, it seems, are everyone’s favourite scapegoat. In the last few years, they’ve been blamed for everything – from chain restaurants going out of business to the decline of the cereal industry.

Their latest supposed transgression is not having enough kids. There is some truth to this claim; the fertility rates in places like Hong Kong, the US, and South Korea are all well below the replacement rate (for developed countries) of 2.1 births per woman, with South Korea and Hong Kong averaging 1.17 and 1.20 births per woman, respectively.

But while it’s true that millennials aren’t having children, we can’t be so quick to lay the blame at their feet. After all, when a group of tens – if not hundreds – of millions of people acts in a certain way, it can’t be explained away by notions of “entitlement”.

Anyone who has watched the 2015 sci-fi film Mad Max: Fury Road is likely disturbed by its depiction of a barren, inhospitable Earth. But the fear that films like this incite is very real, given that our future may not look so different from the one it shows us. Our planet is facing a climate catastrophe and no one knows just how far-reaching its impacts will be.

Not wanting to burden future generations with the consequences of this crisis is just one of the very reasonable justifications for not having children. In addition, millennials entered the workforce just as it was being ravaged by the Great Recession, and that kind of insecurity stays with you. Employment worries are made worse by an uncertain global job market, what with the “gig economy” and the likely impact of AI computers in the coming decades.

Forget getting a job – it’s hard to even find a place to live. Hong Kong is famously the world’s most expensive housing market, but inflated property prices are by no means constrained to the city state. The South Korean government is forging ahead with plans to build 300,000 new homes in or close to Seoul, even though prices for homes in Seoul are now double those of property elsewhere in South Korea.

With all of these considerations – and more – who can blame “kids these days” for not wanting to have kids of their own?

The moral of the story is that younger generations shouldn’t be chastised for failing to do their “duty” and have children – we should instead be actively focused on making tomorrow’s world a more hospitable, secure place in which to raise future humans.

Edited by Charlotte Ames-Ettridge

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