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    Social acceptance and demographic effects of population policy in the Netherlands.

    Leeuw FL


    The goal in this paper is to present and discuss results from several Dutch research projects dealing with the acceptance and demographic effects of new policy measures aimed at increasing fertility. The discussion covers the history of Dutch population policy since 1945, research on the acceptance of future pronatalist policy measures, a preliminary test of Mancur Olson's collective action theory applied to the relationship between population concern and acceptance of population policy, and evidence from social demographic research on the demographic impact of 1 particular type of pronatalist policy. The population has increased by over 10 million people over the last 100 years with some 45% of the increase taking place after 1945. The years immediately following the war were characterized by high birthrates. Natural population growth, mainly in the early 1950s, was attenuated by the number of persons leaving the country. This lasted until about 1960. Since then there has been an immigration surplus, yet in the 1970s the annual population growth was smaller than in the early years. A marked decrease in fertility was responsible for this. The fertility decrease is caused mostly by the fact that the number of high parity births has decreased. Since 1970, the number of 1st births also has decreased. The 1st stage in Dutch population policy covers the period 1945 to the late 1960s. In the first 15 years after World War II, the annual marked increase in population numbers worried the government and several segments of the general population, but an explicit interest on the part of the government in steering (natural) population growth did not exist. The 2nd stage of population policy covers the period from 1970 to the early 1980s. A Royal Commission on Population was established in 1972, and the essential message of their 1974 report was the termination of natural growth as soon as possible. 2 years after the publication of the Commission's final report the government stated their position, that is, for the Netherlands to reach a stationary population. During the 1970s, the total fertility rate declined from 2.6 (1970) to 1.6 (1980). It was this decline, combined with the aging of the population, that led the Interdepartmental Commission on Population Policy (ICB) in 1982 to become alert to the forecast that a stationary population of 12-14 million might not be reached in the near future. In early 1983 the government formulated a new position. The government now considers as imperative a change in the fertility trend over the next several years. If this change fails to occur, they maintain that it may be necessary to implement pronatalist policy measures. A public opinion survey conducted in early 1983 showed that 22% of the respondents responded affirmatively to the question about whether or not they would like to have more children when a pronatalist policy is introduced, yet only 12% indicated a willingness to reconsider their fertility intention upon implementation of this type of policy (N=250). Only 1/3 indicated a willingness to change their fertility intention in a pronatalist way. A government that uses data obtained from public opinion surveys instead of information stemming from demographic policy research may be deceived in the long run. More attention needs to be paid to demographic policy research.
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