Police in Hunan province, China, raided a workshop said to be producing counterfeit condoms. According to the (U.K.) Times:
Bare-chested employees were found using vegetable oil to lubricate the condoms to make them smooth and shiny before placing them directly in fiber bags without bothering with sterilization.
Since March, the workshop had turned out 2.16 million unsterilized condoms labeled as “Jissbon,” “Durex,” “Rough Rider,” “Six Sense,” and “Love Card.” The workshop had earned about 80,000 yuan (£7,000).
The U.N., meanwhile, is hoping to fight global warming by making free condoms easier to get, along with family-planning advice. Maria Cheng of the Associated Press quotes the agency’s Population Fund:
“Women with access to reproductive health services … have lower fertility rates that contribute to slower growth in greenhouse gas emissions.”
One should hope, of course, that the U.N. isn’t getting its condoms from fly-by-night Chinese condom factories.
The Economist, meanwhile, using U.N. Population Division data, offers a compelling argument that long-standing fears of overpopulation are somewhat less scary these days. Why? Because the fertility rate has been falling — gradually in some countries and dramatically in others. Consider:
Assuming fertility falls at current rates, says the U.N., the world’s population will rise from 6.8 billion to 9.2 billion in 2050, at which point it will stabilize.
Behind this is a staggering fertility decline. In the 1970’s only 24 countries had fertility rates of 2.1 or less, all of them rich. Now there are over 70 such countries, and in every continent, including Africa. Between 1950 and 2000 the average fertility rate in developing countries fell by half from six to three — three fewer children in each family in just 50 years. Over the same period, Europe went from the peak of the baby boom to the depth of the baby bust and its fertility also fell by almost half, from 2.65 to 1.42 — but that was a decline of only 1.23 children. The fall in developing countries now is closer to what happened in Europe during 19th- and early 20th-century industrialization. But what took place in Britain over 130 years (1800-1930) took place in South Korea over just 20 (1965-85).
Things are moving even faster today. Fertility has dropped further in every South-East Asian country (except the Philippines) than it did in Japan. The rate in Bangladesh fell by half from six to three in only 20 years (1980 to 2000). The same decline took place in Mauritius in just ten (1963-73).
It would seem a very good time indeed to be in the condom-manufacturing business. Which means the recent Hunan raid is certainly not the last of its kind that we’ll hear about.
(Hat tip: Daniel Lippman)