Had the family kept its natural and traditional structure, the COVID-19 crisis’s impact would have been entirely different. The pandemic would have caused less harm in absolute terms. Infection and mortality rates would also have decreased.
This is the conclusion of a new scientific study titled “Coronavirus and Demographics in Spain.” The work was published by the Demographic Observatory (CEU) of San Pablo University in Madrid.
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Prof. Alejandro Macarrón, the project coordinator, explained that the project’s goal was to describe what would have happened if Spain’s birthrate had stayed at the 1976 level—about 2.8 children per woman of childbearing age—well above the replacement level. In 1976, the scientist pointed out, the traditional family was prevalent. Most couples were regularly married. Separations and divorces were rare. Most elderly people lived with their children and grandchildren.
If those 1976 fertility, marriage, and marriage stability rates had been maintained, today’s Spain would have twenty million more citizens under the age of forty. This difference would have substantially changed the pandemic’s course: “A younger population would have had much lower infection and mortality rates and would not have weighed heavily on the national health system, thus avoiding the collapse of hospitals.”
That situation would have contributed to the number of those in Intensive Care Units—where 70% of the deaths occurred—also being much smaller. Additionally, Spain would have had a larger GDP, and thus supported more hospitals.
Another interesting point of the study dealt with people’s psychological state. With a 1976-type family structure, fewer Spaniards would have spent the quarantine in solitude. In 1976, only 2% of the population lived alone. Today, that percentage has jumped to 11%. Almost five million Spaniards spent the quarantine alone, creating a ticking time bomb of psychological problems that are now beginning to surface.
On the other hand, it is scientifically proven that large and well-structured families manage much better in crisis situations. The CEU study concludes that Spain would have been better able to withstand the pandemic’s impact under the conditions of 1976. Specifically, it would have been easier to work from home and to support their children’s educations.
In statements separate from the academic study, Prof. Macarrón recalled how “healthy demographics are the foundation of a healthy society.”
“The birth rate should be one of our main concerns,” the Professor elaborated. He suggests solutions to Spain’s low birthrate, including tax relief and government assistance to mothers and families. Similar incentives could be used to promote businesses that adopt family-friendly policies. “On the other hand,” he concluded, “we must rethink the policy of abortion and free contraception, and study why people are afraid of marriage and parenting.”
Since 1976, Spain, under both anti-socialist and socialist governments, has passed laws that favor de facto couples that live together rather than regularly married ones. The government has facilitated separation and divorce. This policy is the exact opposite of what is needed.
This can be seen, for example, in the job market. Prof. Macarrón points out that the government effectively punishes women with children. Tax law discriminates in that incentives for working women are denied to mothers. “The State should at least be neutral.”
The demographic studies professor warns of the disastrous effects of these policies on the whole society. Both the number of women having children and the number of children that each mother bears have decreased. Continuing these policies will cause a “death spiral” and lead to “demographic suicide.” Unlike the economy, this deterioration is not explosive, and easily unperceived. Governments often fail to take measures to contain it because it acts like a cancer that gradually devours society.
Such words make sense. However, for this very reason, that probably will not appear in mainstream media.