In New Zealand there is no oppressive misgovernment, there is no land question in the sense in which Nitti applies the term, there is no poverty to account for a declining birth-rate or to confuse the problem. There is prosperity on every hand, and want is almost unknown. And yet, fewer and fewer children, in proportion to the population, and in proportion to the number of marriages, are born into the colony every year. The only reason that can be given is that the people, though they want marriage and do marry, do not wish to bear more children than they can safely, easily, and healthfully support, with a due and ever-increasing regard for their own personal comfort and happiness. They have learned that marriage and procreation are not necessarily inseperable and they practice what they know.
CAUSES OF DECLINING BIRTH-RATE.
Influence of self-restraint without continence.—Desire to limit families in New Zealand not due to poverty.—Offspring cannot be limited without self-restraint.—New Zealand’s economic condition.—High standard of general education.—Tendency to migrate within the colony.—Diffusion of ideas.—Free social migration between all classes.—Desire to migrate upwards.—Desire to raise the standard of ease and comfort.—Social status the measure of financial status.—Social attraction of one class to next below.—Each conscious of his limitation.—Large families confirm this limitation.—The cost of the family.—The cost of maternity. The craving for ease and luxury.—Parents’ desire for their children’s social success.—Humble homes bear distinguished sons. Large number with University education in New Zealand.—No child labour except in hop and dairy districts.—Hopeless poverty a cause of high birth-rates.—High birth-rates a cause of poverty.—Fecundity depends on capacity of the female to bear children.
The first or direct cause of this decline in the birth-rate then, is the inhibition of conception by voluntary means, on the part of those capable of bearing children.
This inhibition is the result of a desire on the part of both sexes to limit their families.
Conception is inhibited by means which do not necessitate continence, but which do necessitate some, and in many cases, a great amount of self-restraint. But how comes it, that in these days of progress and prosperity, especially in New Zealand, a desire to limit offspring should exist amongst its people, and that the desire should be so strong and so universal?
The desire for this limitation must be strong, for there is absolutely no evidence that the passion for marriage has lost any of its force; it must be extensive for the statistics show its results, and the experience of medical men bears the contention out.