The Sunday Times – Pricing children out of existence, by Melanie McDonagh

But there is another approach – IVF is being touted, as The Economist also points out, as a remedy for the population shortfall. …

This is a line of thought that can’t be nipped in the bud too soon. Quite apart from the morally problematic aspects of IVF (all those discarded embryos), the fact that IVF children are particularly subject to health problems, its troubling implications for future fertility (by perpetuating the genes of the infertile it may be compounding the problem) and its low success rate, this solution seems to get things the wrong way round. Why aren’t we having children in the first place?

What a peculiar suggestion.

But the obvious reason why birth rates have gone down is that the price of living has gone up. At least for anyone who’s fussy about their children’s quality of life.

Last week we learnt from one survey that parents in nearly half the professions which, five years ago, could afford private school fees, now can’t. And at £20,000 a year for a boarding school place, small wonder.

I can’t see the point of fetishising private school education in itself. But the reality is that a great many state schools are so poor that you’d beg on the streets rather than send your child to them.

If the only option of a decent school is one costing £100,000 for five years, that’s a kind of contraceptive. It wasn’t always thus. When there were grammar schools there was the option of a state education much better than that of the private schools.

Doing away with them has made having children a far more expensive proposition. That’s one argument for them – bring back grammars, boost the birth rate.

Then there’s the cost of housing. I rent, but if I were to entertain the delusory fantasy of home ownership, I don’t know where I’d start to find the half a million quid it would cost to buy anything vaguely habitable where I live. For those couples for whom a “flat of one’s own” is a prerequisite for having children, well it’s no wonder they’re about 40 by the time they get started.

There are, then, any number of reasons why we’re not breeding in sufficient numbers – unless you’re rich or on benefits, a big family is a luxury.

A few weeks ago an older friend was surprised to find that Peter and I have, ah, discussed such things. For the umpteenth time, she seemed to be assuming that since we’re in this …modern situation, I was being cool and he was being feckless and all hope was lost. I laughingly relayed this exchange to Peter and, rolling his eyes, he suggested, well, I forget how he phrased it, but basically that we start up a donation fund for all the people who think we’re here because he’s irresponsible.