Population Policy towards Sustainable Development
Since the end of the Cold War, cooperation has made a comeback in Europe, and in the field of population, cooperation between states has been taking place already for more than 15 years.
Pan-European intergovernmental conferences (Geneva 1993, Budapest 1998, Geneva 2004 and Strasbourg 2005) have, after serious discussion and on the basis of consensus, defined Europe’s primary problems on population development. One of these is (very) low fertility. All European countries with the exception of Turkey have under-replacement fertility, an average of only 65-75% of that level. The rest of the world is looking at what kind of (political) restructuring must and can be done to ensure population sustainability, as the current situation in Europe will become everyone else’s future very quickly.
The article provides a short overview of Estonian fertility through the general indicator – total fertility rate – in order to treat the aspect of which principles could be implemented for a pro-growth policy and which should be discouraged. From the aspect of policy, Estonia comes with little baggage and so the experience of others will be important. At present, the experiences have above all been negative, but avoiding mistakes is a big accomplishment in itself. The principles of unsuccessful policy can be generalized into three approaches: a money-centred model, independent set of measures, and non-guaranteed duration. It would be wise not to rely on these principles in planning either population policy or, more narrowly, fertility policy.
The opportunities for successful policy are also generalized into three approaches, of which the most important, and the one that can be brought to life most rapidly, is developing the knowledge base. As the first step of a successful fertility policy, it would be wise to create national statistics and to transform the Statistical Office into a socially conscious and statistically competent institution. Following this administrative step, we can proceed to creating the necessary databases – above all through becoming part of the cooperation programmes in Europe – so that our next step would be to attain population-centred planning that has the entire society in mind and, more specifically, start aiming at the replacement level.