Update: Children in European Restaurants

Not really forewarned about this social trend in advance, my family was surprised to find that many restaurants in smaller English towns would not let us in with our children.  I wrote about the strange Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang-esque reactions we got to our children here.

Reader Tom Van Horn sends in this update from Newsweek:

a recent British study showed a house's value drops by 5 percent if
neighbors move in with teenage kids. Hotels are catering to the
childless, too; Italy's La Veduta country resort promises, "Your Tuscan
holiday will not be shattered by the clamor of children." In Rome, many
restaurants make it clear that children are not welcome"”in some cases
by establishing themselves as "clubs," where members must be older than
18 to join.

*shrug*  There are times when my wife and I like to get away from kids too, and we have a couple of them.  I know a few couples who have chosen to remain childless and I can assure you they are sick and tired of being asked about their childlessness like it was some kind of disease.  I am sure they will welcome a sense of normalcy for their chosen way to live.  Combining this trend with my observation that Parisians will take their dog anywhere, it is probably not long before there are public places in Paris where dogs are welcome but kids are not.

That doesn't mean that everyone shares my willingness to let folks live in peace like they choose.  Certain politicians around Europe seem to want to intervene (and isn't that why people become politicians in the first place -- to force other people into making choices that they would not have made for themselves?)

Politicians and religious leaders warn darkly of an "epidemic" of
childlessness that saps the moral fiber of nations; they blame the
child-free for impending population decline, the collapse of pension
systems and even the rise in immigration. In Japan, commentators have
identified the "parasite single" who lives off society instead of doing
his duty to start a family

In Germany, where the childless rate is the
highest in the world, at 25 percent, the best-seller lists have been
full of tomes forecasting demographic doomsday. In "Minimum," the
conservative commentator Frank Schirrmacher describes a "spiral of
childlessness," where a declining population becomes ever more
reluctant to have kids. Media reports have stigmatized the "cold career
woman""”one such recent article came with mug shots of childless female
celebs"”accusing them of placing their jobs before kids. Never mind that
Germany trails its neighbors in the availability of child care, or the
amount of time men spend helping around the house.

From
Germany to Russia, there is increasing talk of sanctions against the
childless. In Slovakia, a leading adviser on the government's Strategic
Council on Economic Development proposed in March to replace an
unpopular payroll tax with a levy on all childless Slovaks between the
ages of 25 and 50. In Russia, where the birthrate has dropped from 2.3
in the 1980s to 1.3 today, a powerful business lobby has called for an
income-tax surcharge on childless couples. In Germany, economists and
politicians have demanded that public pensions for the childless be
slashed by up to 50 percent"”never mind that such pensions were invented
as an alternative to senior citizens' having to depend on their
offspring.

  • http://duanegran.com/blog/ Duane Gran

    In my experience traveling in Italy I found public places very accommodating to children. The very design of classic cities, with pedestrian-friendly streets and open plazas, simplifies things. You eat outside and your children can run around and play within eye-shot.

  • Max

    I can only say that this could be a consequence of denouncing marriages for years and making it increasingly difficult to maintain a family with kids without getting on welfare. It is no fun to raise kids in an environment, where you can tell that each kid costs up to 1 Million euro until its 18th birthday.

    Since academics don't want a family (or they move to a different country to get a family) and lower wage people don't have the money to sustain one without welfare. The breeding is reduced and thus the incentive for catering for children is reduced.

    I have my own theory that also the german version of feminism (which is actually more of a man-hating than claiming equal rights for women) might be responsible for the drop in birth rates (although only in the academics ranks).

    However, I think that you cannot disconnect birth rates and social environments from such responses, because after all this is a big market place.

  • http://seanarington.com Sean

    Childless Americans are already paying extra taxes for not having children, by being excluded from the EIC. Likewise, we pay property taxes for schools we do not burden. The childless present less of a burden for society as a whole, until they reach retirement unprepared to pay for their own care. Is the birthrate decining in the US? It probably depends on the demographic. The Europeans are worried because their giant welfare state is doomed if there is no one around to pay for everyone elses' security.

  • Craig

    It's funny how Europeans are so worried about lack of reproduction because of the effect it will have on their welfare system, while they ignore the fact that their failure to procreate will allow the Muslims to take over. I'm sure that sharia law doesn't have a provision for old age pensions.

  • Tom Van Horn

    21st century demographics is a very interesting topic, and it will shape this century. It is already, as this post shows.

    To answer a question above, the US is about flat in terms of population growth, before legal/illegal immigration is considered. Last time I checked, US Census data showed a 0.8% annual growth rate, including net immigration.

    This upcoming issue of Newsweek may be interesting because it's supposed to be focusing on population growth, fertility, choosing not to have kids, etc.

    If you check US Census and UN population models for the 21st century, you will see 2 interesting trends:

    1) World population is now estimated to peak below 9 billion somewhere around 2060. It is expected, despite increasing lifespans, to drop by 2100, perhaps even to a level lower than the present-day population. However, the average age of a human in 2100, because of reduced fertility worldwide, will be much older than it is today. Society will look very different than it does today.

    2) When you look at these population models going back to the 70s, you notice another interesting trend. Each time the model is updated, the peak drops--some models used to show 12-15 billion by 2100! The estimate for 2100 also drops. Fertility and avg. kids/woman have been dropping like a rock all around the world, much faster than the modelers assumed.

    Why?

    Here's my theory.

    In the past 40 years, billions of women have gotten all least some human and legal rights. The first right they exercise is the right to not be a baby-machine. They get education, they get jobs, they become consumers instead of peasants, and they have enough rights to kick their husband/partner out of bed without fear of death. They discover this thing called "quality of life." Also, when they move to urban centers and take new non-farm jobs, kids become an expense rather than a revenue-producing (i.e., farm hand) member of the family. Then, biology sets in. Girls can get pregnant at 13 or 15 because they're designed that way. People in the US, for exampled, had an average life span of 49 in 1899 and about 39 in 1799. What do you think the average life span was in 10,000 BC? Probably 25-30. Have a kid at 14, be a grandma/pa at 28 if you're lucky, and then die of complications from tooth decay or a cold. So, back to the 3rd-world woman of today. If she puts off having her first kid from 15 to 25 because she is getting educated, is working, and gets married later--guess what?--there is no way she can have 10 kids before her eggs are "degraded" without costly fertility treatments. And so it goes.

    Higher GDP/capita and rights for women inevitably lead to lower fertility rates. Even in India, the number of children/women has dropped from like 7 to 3.5 in the past 30 years, and it's still dropping rapidly.

    As I said, this will be an interesting century.

  • John

    I'd just like to point out quickly that in Japan "parasite singles" are so named not because they are childless but because they live with their parents.