Is the Czech Republic ready for a demographic time bomb?

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The declining birth rate in the Czech Republic has opened up numerous questions. Is this the end of the traditional family as we know it? How can the outdated pensions system be reformed as people live longer and healthier lives? How will the country fill job vacancies in the future? And should the state try to influence people's reproductive habits?

Rene Jakl: The overall trend which we can see in past decades, in fact from the beginning of the 20th century, is a trend towards lower natality. I think that the slight increase is just a short term trend. Radio Prague: The labour and social affairs minister Vladimir Spidla wants to introduce higher maternity benefits in the hope of encouraging couples to have more children. Do you think economic prosperity would resolve this -after all West European states are prosperous and yet people there don't have many children either. Do you think economic prosperity is the key to the problem? RJ: I don't think it is the key to the problem. It would be naive to believe that such an intimate and personal problem could be resolved by economic prosperity. I think that these measures proposed by Mr Spidla can help young couples and young mothers but they will not be persuaded to have more kids just because they'd be getting some extra money for it. RP: Why are people not having children nowadays -as much as they did say 50 years ago? RJ: It's not their priority, it's not a traditional issue any more. People want to focus more on their own lives and they don't want to spend that much energy on raising kids.RP: Do you think this is just a temporary trend? RJ: I don't think it is a temporary trend. This is a general trend which we are seeing in the whole of Europe and the Czech Republic is among the states where the mortality rate is higher in the long term than the natality rate so there are less and less people ...RP: They are dying out basically - we are dying out. If this is the trend in the whole of Europe -where is that going to lead Europe. What are we going to do in 30 years' time, 40 years' time? RJ: I think we should open borders to newcomers, to people who would move here from another part of the world. But we are now closing borders -so we are doing the exact opposite.RP: So Europe should become something of a melting pot?RJ: Exactly. It should solve this problem by following the example of the United States.