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The problem of demographic decline

By Dara Macdonald - posted Tuesday, 13 June 2023

The problem of demographic decline is the term I have chosen for the joint problem of an aging population combined with a very low fertility rate. This problem is talked about by its many effects and causes but rarely in its totality.

On the effects side, the fact that there may not be the tax base to pay off the debt accumulated by governments today in the future let alone pay the age pension that future retirees expect is the problem that governments are trying to solve with immigration (which is in many ways exacerbating the causes of this problem). There are many Gen X's (the generation under Baby Boomers) in Europe that have already clued in to the fact that the State resources will have been exhausted by the time they reach retirement age and they will need to be able to support themselves entirely if they want to retire. Some of the creative solutions of this movement I have been inspired by in writing this Part 2.

Then there are the causes of this problem, some of which are well discussed in the political space. These are mostly confined to the material realm. The cost of housing crisis is the most talk about of these. The usual refrain being:


Of course, millennials aren't having kids if they can't afford a house to raise them in and the small apartments they can afford require two incomes to pay off the mortgage, women simply can't have enough time out of the workforce in order to have the number of kids they would like.

These causes are not to be dismissed. There is a lot to be said for the two-income trap combined with the price of housing. But the non-material factors actually have the greater effect on the number of children people are having. The fact that people are getting married later and later (which reduces the number of fertile years that women are in a stable relationship) combined with a general pessimism about the future are far more significant issues. Many women (and I speak personally here) would happily be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen if it was required in order to have children but that means finding a man who is also happy to sacrifice comfort for family. The fact is that finding a partner that wants to have a gaggle of children and also happy to live the lifestyle that would enable this is incredibility difficult without some kind of community around that supports this aim, and also sorts for potential partners.


Co-living has been on the rise recently with companies like UKO and even the Meriton creating co-living spaces (it probably helps that the NSW government has decided that this is the housing of the future and have created incentives to encourage this).

The basic structure of co-living is that bedrooms are private and living spaces (such as kitchens and loungerooms) and amenities (such as washing machines and other big appliances) are shared. This is a very sound idea; how often do you actually use the washing machine? Once a week? Why not share it between 10 other people? The value of a shared kitchen I have already extoled in the last post, communal cooking and eating is a far better way to consume food.

The problem is that all the current "co-living" offers on the market cater to young singles as a way to overcome urban loneliness and retirees as a way to enable self-funded old-age needs when the pension is no longer viable.


But the co-living model would be far more useful if applied to multi-generational (or time of life) housing arrangements, and specifically could cater to families.

The other problem that these current models have is that they are expensive, or at least no cheaper than independent living.

I have been co-living curious for a while but a bedroom in a UKO arrangement in Sydney is the same rent as a small two-bedroom apartment in some cases. This is due to a few assumptions that these companies are working on which I doubt to be "true" (at least they are not true for me – but perhaps I am not the target market).

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This article was first published on The Conservative Vagabond.

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About the Author

Dara Macdonald writes at The Conservative Vagabond.

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