Throughout the ages Latvian wives and mothers have been boosting the strength of the population. All this time Latvian women have each given birth to well over two children each. But this has drastically changed since the restoration of Latvia's independence 10 years ago.
Latvian families are now having no more than one child each. In 1999, the official figure was 1.09 children per family. Some observers have claimed this to be a new world record.
Before the restoration of independence about 40,000 children were being born annually in Latvia. Last year some 19,000 were born. If women are asked to explain this change they mostly say that Latvian men drink too much and do not care for their families. But the explanation is more complicated than that.
I believe it is the women who have chosen not to bear children.
Many people blame the poor and insecure economic circumstances in Latvia, but if you take a closer look you can see that children are still born in poorer families. It is the well-situated women who have chosen not to have children.
For a child to be created, two partners are needed. If only one child is born to those two people, in the next generation there will be only one person instead of the two. If only one child is born to each Latvian woman then in the next generation there will be only one-half of present-day Latvians, about 700,000. One does not need to be a genius to understand this simple truth. It will be so and it will be irreversible.
On June12, 2000 The Baltic Times reported that "this is not a matter of the last of the Mohicans. It is about the last of the Latvians. Statistical data available to the Latvian Development Agency show that in 160 years' time there will not be a single Latvian on this earth." This means that there will be such protected species as elephants, Bengal tigers and rhinoceroses - but no Latvians! But that was last year. This year it is already only 159 years hence. For Latvians time is relentless.
It is worth noting that the reduction of the number of Latvians is not a problem to Latvia's government because it can always bring in guest workers from Turkey, Vietnam or Russia. It is not a problem to the United Nations, NATO or EU. The dying out of the Latvian nation is a problem solely to Latvians themselves.
The data about the critical reduction of the numbers of Latvians are well researched and publicized. It is surprising that they not being debated anywhere. It seems to be a tabu subject not to be mentioned in polite circles. This is the reason why this matter is not allocated priority anywhere. Madame President does not mention it. The ex-president did not mention it on his recent visit to Australia. The press in Latvia does not write about it. One could have expected that priests, knowing that life is sacred, would have thundered from the pulpits while pointing a finger : "Woman! Where are your children?"
The Free World Latvian Federation, in their meeting in Riga in 1999, declared year 2000 to be the year of regeneration of the Latvian population. One waited in vain for the report on this subject during the 2000 meeting. Not a single word was said. They ran out of time!
We have come to the conclusion that Latvians will cease to exist as a nation because well-to-do Latvian women have decided that they do not want children. We have also come to the conclusion that Latvian leaders do not care.
It is time we, the common people, started beating our bare foreheads against this wall of indifference in the hope that with enough effort the wall might start to crumble.
What target should be chosen?
Economic analysts have suggested that to achieve the development of its full economic capability Latvia's population should be 3 million. If all of these are to be Latvians, the nation needs to double in size.
Demographers have calculated that this can be achieved in 50 years time if every Latvian woman has four children in her 20s. Not an impossible target, is it?
Modern women will say that in a democratic society a woman has the right to chose how many children she has and no one can reproach her if she chooses to have none. Yes, one can! Every woman will eventually become a pensioner and if she has no progeny to replace her in the workplace, there will be no one to earn her keep. Today's pensioner's needs are so substantial that one offspring is not able to earn enough to support itself and a parent. Two are needed. This means that each woman must create four children Ð two to support herself and two to support her partner.
Experience in other countries has shown that a sustained increase in birth rate cannot be achieved with money. Other ways to persuade women to have children must be found, be it a box of chocolate, a bunch of roses or something else.
Demographer Ilmars Mezs writes that in 1999 in Latvia 717 children were born as a fourth child, 293 as a fifth and 354 following the fifth Ð 1,364 altogether. That means that in 1999 there were 1,364 women in Latvia who thought that to have four children is not an impossible task for a woman. These are the women to whom we must listen, and we have to honor with such generosity that others become envious.
Perhaps the next practical step would be one proposed by Mr. Erdmanis in Australia. This is to collect data of families with four or more children and regularly publish these in the local newspaper asking for sponsorship of those families either singly, in groups or even by organizations. This is the same as the "dollar a day" charity drives in the local communities. This would be a very significant undertaking. If every week there would appear the story of a successful family with four or more children, we all, including our leaders may start believing that the demise of the Latvian nation can be prevented.
The English have a proverb: The hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world!
Latvians! Rock the cradle!