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  • I'm an exhausted dad.

  • Currently owned and dominated by two mini dictators,

  • who rule my life with an iron fist while wearing their Huggies diapers.

  • (Laughter)

  • Now probably because I've been drowning in small people lately,

  • I've been paying close attention to a particular headline.

  • It seems around the world, in developed countries,

  • people are having fewer babies.

  • From North America to Europe to China to Japan,

  • there's actually been a consistent decline in birth rates.

  • In fact, over the past 50 years,

  • the global fertility rate has halved.

  • What the heck is going on?

  • Now, my friends who don't want kids,

  • all point to climate change as a reason for never having babies.

  • And many of you are sitting there right now, saying,

  • "Waj, there's also overpopulation,

  • there's also high birth rates,

  • which still exist in many African and Middle Eastern countries,

  • there's also orphan kids who still need parents,

  • there's also a lack of resources to go around for everyone,

  • and oh, by the way,

  • we have a ginormous carbon footprint that is destroying this planet.

  • I hear you, I hear you.

  • And yet, despite all this chaos,

  • I still think we should have babies.

  • I believe we can and should fight for the earth and humanity,

  • side by side.

  • Now, if I could take it personal for a second,

  • I get it, I get why some of you might be skeptical about having babies.

  • Here's a photo of my wife and me before we had kids.

  • Young, happy, fresh.

  • (Laughter)

  • Here's a photo of me after having kids.

  • A broken, defeated husk of a man.

  • (Laughter)

  • Here's the photo of the car I thought I'd be driving as an adult.

  • A Porsche.

  • Here's what I actually drive.

  • A Honda Odyssey minivan.

  • (Laughter)

  • (Applause)

  • For the minivan.

  • Where there was once hope, now there is convenient space,

  • and good mileage, good mileage.

  • Now, I just want to stress

  • that I'm completely aware of the very dire threats

  • of global warming and climate change.

  • I just want to acknowledge that choosing to have babies

  • is a deeply, profoundly personal choice.

  • And that many who want to are unable.

  • But just for today, let's examine the flip side of the coin.

  • At how not having enough new people

  • is going to be a major problem moving forward.

  • According to the World Health Organization,

  • we need to average about 2.1 children per woman today

  • just so we have enough people to replace the previous generation.

  • A lot of you thought overpopulation was going to be a problem in 100 years --

  • yeah, it might be underpopulation.

  • So a question:

  • what happens if that number dips below 2.1?

  • There's going to be a domino effect.

  • As all of us get older, and live longer,

  • there's going to be a shrinking younger population,

  • which is going to lead to rising labor shortages

  • in the world's biggest economies.

  • I'm talking about United States, China, Japan, Germany.

  • Fewer younger working people means less tax revenue.

  • Less tax revenue means less money and resources

  • to go to safety net programs that all of us are going to depend upon.

  • I'm talking about pensions and health care.

  • It seems every generation is indeed connected.

  • But how the heck did we get here in the first place?

  • Well, in some cases, it was intentional.

  • Let's take the DeLorean to simpler times.

  • Let's stop in China.

  • Somewhere between the death of disco and "Empire Strikes Back" -- 1980.

  • In 1980, China decided to implement the one-child policy,

  • largely limiting most parents to having just one kid

  • to combat overpopulation.

  • Check out some good old-fashioned Chinese propaganda, lovely.

  • Now, fast-forward to 2019.

  • Even after ending its one-child policy in 2015,

  • China's birth rates have largely declined.

  • In fact, the falling population in China

  • is removing one of its biggest drivers of growth -- people.

  • If trends continue,

  • China's population is actually going to peak in 2029,

  • before entering "unstoppable decline."

  • China's government is so freaked out right now

  • that it's actually doing new propaganda --

  • it's begging couples to have children for the country.

  • Let's take the DeLorean and hop over to Japan,

  • home of my beloved Honda Odyssey minivan.

  • (Laughter)

  • Japan is now producing more adult diapers than infant ones.

  • The number of kids in Japan has fallen for the 37th straight year.

  • And unlike other countries,

  • it has not been able to replace its population numbers

  • through immigrant workers.

  • There will be labor shortages

  • and not enough money to fund the safety-net programs.

  • Now, Japan has introduced two solutions.

  • First, a financial incentive.

  • Some local governments in Japan have offered couples money to have babies,

  • with the money increasing with each additional child being born.

  • This actually worked for one year in 2014 in this town called Ama.

  • It actually raised the birth rate from about 1.66 kids per woman to 1.8.

  • But it did not gain traction across Japan.

  • In 2018, a leader of Japan's ruling party tried a new tack.

  • He told young people,

  • "You're selfish for not having babies."

  • Shockingly, shaming was not a rousing aphrodisiac.

  • Surprise, I know, surprise.

  • Who would have thought?

  • (Laughter)

  • Let's take the DeLorean to Europe,

  • the continent of delicious cheeses I love to eat but cannot pronounce.

  • The UK and much of Western Europe

  • has a birth rate of about 1.7 kids per woman,

  • which at least is better than Hungary, where it hovers around 1.45.

  • Now, Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orbán

  • has proposed a new solution to try to incentivize people to have kids.

  • He said families where the women have four or more kids

  • will no longer pay income tax.

  • Pretty good, right, pretty good.

  • At least it's better than Russia's 2007 proposal,

  • which once offered women in a particular region

  • the opportunity of winning a fridge if they had more kids.

  • (Laughter)

  • Yeah, it didn't work, it didn't work.

  • But hold on, pump the brakes.

  • Orbán is primarily proposing this because he wants to limit

  • the population of Muslims and people of color.

  • He says he doesn't think Hungary's traditions and culture and color

  • has to be "mixed with those of others."

  • Subtle.

  • Unfortunately for Orbán, and much of the EU,

  • the birth rates are not high enough right now

  • to be replenished without immigration.

  • Among EU countries, there is a demographic decline.

  • So it seems, in Europe, karma is going to be brown and Muslim.

  • (Laughter) (Applause)

  • Just saying.

  • The question remains:

  • Why aren't people having enough kids?

  • Why is the birth rate declining in these countries?

  • In some cases,

  • it's because women are more literate, more educated.

  • They have more economic opportunities -- applaud.

  • All good things, all good things, yes.

  • (Applause)

  • In India, this has been fantastic,

  • it has actually reduced the birth rate but kept it above that magic 2.1 number.

  • Women also have more access to birth control,

  • more control over their reproductive lives,

  • all good things.

  • But in the United States, in particular,

  • a lot of young people are opting out of having kids,

  • largely cite the same reason:

  • financial concerns.

  • Let's take the DeLorean to my motherland, the United States of America,

  • where the birth rate hit its historic low in 2017.

  • The United States is the most expensive country in the world

  • to give birth.

  • If you do not have insurance,

  • it will cost you 32,000 dollars to have a baby,

  • if everything goes perfectly.

  • That's like buying a brand new Honda Odyssey minivan, OK?

  • So, congratulations, you just had a baby,

  • but the baby's economic productivity is zero, and guess what?

  • The United States is the only industrialized country in the world

  • that does not require employers to offer paid parental leave.

  • "Mom, you just had a baby, congratulations, that's lovely.

  • Get back to work or you're fired, young mom!"

  • My wife and I, both working parents,

  • pay about 3,500 dollars a month -- a month -- in Virginia for childcare.

  • If you do the math, that's 40,000 dollars a year.

  • That's like buying a brand new, souped-up, Honda Odyssey minivan, OK.

  • I have one, I do not need 10.

  • So here's my bold suggestion.

  • Let's make it easier for people to have babies.

  • It seems in order to invest in our future, we actually have to invest in the present

  • and help those people who want to become parents.

  • Give them affordable health care,

  • give them affordable childcare,

  • give them paid parental leave.

  • Among the EU states in 2017, France reported the highest birth rates.

  • Why?

  • Largely due to its pronatal policies

  • that actually kept women in the workforce.

  • I'm talking about subsidized daycare and paid maternal leave.

  • China and Japan, thank God, are finally wisening up

  • and proposing such policies.

  • This is great.

  • That being said, I know some of you have listened to me

  • and you still think the best investment we can make in the future

  • is not having babies.

  • I respect that.

  • I get where you're coming from.

  • And I know many of you in this audience want to have babies

  • but you are terrified about the future.

  • And as a parent, I feel you.

  • I'm scared about the future.

  • I wrote that last line a month ago.

  • But it really hit home three days ago for me,

  • while I was at TED.

  • Three days ago, my wife calls me, crying.

  • I pick it up in my hotel room.

  • And she said, "I'm calling from the hospital."

  • We had to take my baby daughter Nusayba,

  • who was named after a warrior princess,

  • to the hospital, because she found a bump on the stomach.

  • We got back the results, and there were bumps all around her liver.

  • Today, this morning, we found out that she has stage IV liver cancer.

  • (Audience gasps)

  • It has been a challenging week.

  • It has been a challenging week.

  • And if I may, I just want to take a moment

  • to acknowledge the TED staff, everyone, top-down,

  • everyone in the back, in the green room, some of the speakers, word has spread.

  • On behalf of my family, my wife,

  • and my parents -- my Pakistani parents said I had to say this --

  • thank you for just being decent and kind this week.

  • So thank you.

  • (Applause)

  • These are my beloveds, my Ibrahim and Nusayba, my babies.

  • I talked to my wife,

  • and despite the terrible news and the fight ahead,

  • we both concluded that we regret nothing.

  • Deciding to have babies was the best decision we ever made.

  • Our babies have brought us so much joy and they've brought the world so much joy,

  • and having kids is a risk, but life is a risk.

  • And yes, I hope you've been paying attention,

  • we need to invest in babies in developed countries

  • if we want to help save our economy and pensions.

  • But that's not the reason you have babies.

  • That's not the main reason.

  • Babies have always represented

  • humanity's best, boldest, most beautiful infinite possibilities.

  • And if we in developed countries,

  • as a whole, opt out,

  • and don't invest in present and future generations,

  • then what the hell's the point?

  • What's the point of being on this absurd journey together?

  • And so, for those who can and who choose to,

  • for those who can and who choose to have kids,

  • may you pass on this beautiful thing called life,

  • with kindness, generosity,

  • decency and love.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

I'm an exhausted dad.

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