Students at a Japanese university have created a giggling robot baby called Yotaro in an effort to encourage couples to get broody and rekindle the country’s dwindling birth rate.
How do you make people make more people?
In the 1960s, Romania was approaching zero population growth—a terrifying prospect for a Communist nation that held the Marxist principle that economic health lay in a robust labor class. So, starting in 1966, the government took some drastic and chilling measures.
They chose the stick rather than the carrot: Though there are tax and monetary incentives to encourage people to have children, they also punished people for not having them: Childless men and women over the age of 25, regardless of marital status, were subject to a new tax that could be as much as 20 percent of their income. Divorce was made incredibly difficult; in 1967, only 28 divorces were allowed, a precipitous decrease from the 26,000 the year before. Police were installed in hospitals to make sure that no illegal abortions were performed, and legal importation of birth control was halted.
It worked, at least in the short term. The baby bounce was significant—273,687 in 1966 to 527,764 in 1967—but lasted only as long as the police remained in hospitals. In the 1980s, the Nicolae Ceausescu regime again faced a declining birth rate and instituted even more draconian measures to raise it: Women were subjected to monthly gynecological exams to detect pregnancies in their earliest stage and to ensure that the pregnancies came to term. These exams were performed by “demographic command units,” which would also interrogate childless individuals and couples about their sex lives. Access to abortion was made even more difficult; in 1985, the government declared that in order to eligible for an abortion, regardless of the circumstances, a woman had to have had five children and all those children had to still be under her care, or be over 45. At the same time, the monetary incentives encouraging women to have children were barely enough to buy a bit of milk, under the country’s depressed economic conditions.
Pretty grim. The campaign to forcibly control Romanian women’s fertility ended with the overthrow of Ceausescu’s regime in the bloody revolution of 1989.