A growing number of European countries, anxious about their low birthrates, are forging ahead with sex education programs aimed at encouraging young people to have more babies.
In Denmark, the emphasis of these programs in schools had been to prevent sexually active students from getting pregnant. Now, however, pregnancy is discussed in a more positive light in the public square —
part of a larger European effort to stave off the specter of population decline, The New York Times reported.
With much of Europe buffeted by economic crisis, high unemployment rates are seen as discouraging young people from parenthood.
In Greece, for example, the country's economic collapse has stalled efforts to increase its birthrate. Germany's spending spree on family subsidies has done little to alter its demographic decline. Italy's health minister recently described his own nation as a "dying country."
And, in Denmark, the birthrate has been below the level necessary to keep the population from shrinking (known as the replacement rate) of slightly more than two children per woman since the early 1970s.
"For many, many years, we only talked about safe sex, how to prevent getting pregnant," said Marianne Lomholt, the national director of Sex and Society, a nonprofit group that provides much of Denmark's sex education. "Suddenly, we just thought, maybe we should actually also tell them about how to get pregnant."
There are an estimated 28 Europeans 65 or older for every 100 residents between 20 and 64, almost twice the world average, according to figures compiled by the United Nations. (The U.S. figure is 24.7 percent.)
By the end of the century, the European figure is expected to double, putting tremendous strain on public pension systems and taxpayers.
Danish anxiety over the situation has spawned a myriad of creative —
and sometimes downright bizarre —
ways of using the population crisis to get attention, the Times reported, with examples including a priest gaining notoriety for writings on eroticism and an entrepreneur devising a "pro-procreation dating site."
A Danish travel company called Spies
began a promotional campaign last year aimed at luring amorous travelers to European capitals. It included an ad titled "Do it for Denmark!" featuring a young Danish couple going to a hotel in Paris in the name of saving the nation's future.
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