Had the family kept its natural and traditional structure, instead of being shaken by modern trends, the COVID-19 pandemic would not have been so harmful, both in absolute terms and in infection and mortality rates. That is the conclusion of a scientific study titled “Coronavirus y Demografía en España,’ published by CEU, the Demographic Observatory of the San Pablo University in Madrid, led by prof. Joaquín Leguina.
Prof. Alejandro Macarrón Herrán, the project coordinator, explains: “This is a projection analysis of what would have happened if we had kept the rate of children per woman of 1976, which was 2.8, or above the replacement level, which allowed positive population growth; if we had maintained the family structure of the time when almost everyone was regularly married, and there were almost no separations or divorces; and if most of the elderly had lived at home with children and grandchildren, as was done back then.”
If the 1976 fertility, marriage, and marriage stability rates had been maintained, today’s Spain would have twenty million more citizens under the age of forty. That would have substantially changed the course of the pandemic: “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. Not to mention the fact that the number of hospitalized in ICUs – where 70% of the deaths occurred – would have been much smaller. We would have had a larger GDP, more hospitals, and more young people.”
Another interesting point of the study concerns people’s psychological situation. With a 1976-type family structure, a smaller number of Spaniards would have spent the quarantine in solitude. In 1976, only 2% lived alone. Today, that percentage has jumped to 11%. Almost five million Spaniards have spent the quarantine all alone, a ticking time bomb of psychological problems that are now beginning to surface.
On the other hand, it is scientifically proven that a large and well-structured family manages this type of situation much better. The study of the CEU San Pablo University concludes: “If the Spanish families had been those of 1976, society as such would have withstood the impact of the pandemic much better: from working remotely from home to supporting the education of children.”
In statements on the sidelines of the academic study, prof. Macarrón recalled how “a healthy demography is the foundation of a healthy society. Spanish society must become aware of this problem. The birth rate should be one of our main concerns. We need to study what to do to motivate families to have more children: tax relief, economic support measures for motherhood and the family, aid to businesses to promote motherhood, and so on. On the other hand, we must rethink the policy of abortion and free contraceptives, and study why people are afraid of marriage and parenting.”
Since 1976 – and not just under socialist governments – Spain has passed laws that favor de facto couples rather than regularly married ones, and facilitated separation and divorce. That is the exact opposite of what he should have done. This is visible, for example, in the job market. According to prof. Macarrón, “the State chastises women who choose to have children. Tax incentives only work for working women. That is discriminatory. The State should at least be neutral.”
“Demographic suicide is accelerating,” warns the demography professor. “In recent years, the number of children per woman, and the number of women who have children have decreased. If we don’t do something, we will be victims of a death spiral that will lead to demographic suicide. Unlike the economy, this deterioration is not explosive, and thus we do not perceive it easily and fail to take measures to contain it. It is cancer that is gradually devouring our society.”
These are sensible words that, for this very reason, I doubt will find space in Italian newspapers.