Will Asia's efforts to combat low birth rates be successful?

Several of Asia's largest economies are gravely concerned by declining birth rates. In the 1990s, Japan began implementing policies to encourage couples to have more children. In the 2000s, South Korea adopted a similar policy, whereas Singapore's first fertility policy dated back to 1987.

China, whose population has declined for the first time in sixty years, has recently joined the growing membership.

It is difficult to quantify the cost of these policies, but South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol most recently stated that his country has spent more than $200 billion to increase its population over the past 16 years. However, South Korea eclipsed its own record for the world's lowest fertility rate last year, when the average number of babies expected per woman dropped to 0.78.

The budget for child-related policies from 10tn yen ($74.7 bn)  will be doubled according to the pledge taken by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Japan had a record low of less than 800,000 births last year.

Since 1976, according to the United Nations' most recent report, the number of nations seeking to increase fertility has more than quadrupled, while the number of nations seeking to reduce birth rates has increased.

A larger population that can produce more products and services leads to greater economic expansion. While a larger population can result in increased government expenses, it can also increase tax revenue. Many Asian nations are swiftly aging. Nearly 30 percent of Japan's population is now over the age of 65, and other nations in the region are not far behind.

When the proportion of the population of working age decreases, the cost and burden of caring for the non-working population increases.

Negative population growth has an effect on the economy, and when combined with an aging population, it will be impossible to sustain the elderly, according to Xujian Peng of Victoria University.

The majority of regional measures to increase birth rates have been similar: payments for new parents, subsidized or free education, additional nurseries, tax incentives, and increased parental leave.

Data from Japan, South Korea, and Singapore from the last few decades indicate that efforts to increase their populations have had little effect. The Japanese Ministry of Finance has published a study stating that the policies have failed.

Alanna Armitage of the United Nations Population Fund told sources that the sort of policies known as "demographic engineering," in which women are encouraged to have more children, simply do not work. She added that it is often the inability of women to balance their work and familial lives that is the underlying cause of why women are not having children. According to Ms. Peng, fertility policies have been more effective in Scandinavian nations than in Asia.

The primary reason is that their welfare system is superior and the cost of rearing children is lower. Their gender equality is also considerably more balanced than that of Asian nations. Japan is considering issuing more government bonds, which would increase its debt, as well as increasing its sales tax and social insurance premiums.

The first option increases the financial burden on future generations, whereas the second and third options would burden already struggling employees, which could persuade them to have fewer children.