#4: What’s It Like to Be a Teenage Girl?

Many countries are realizing a great strategy for improving the GDP, having more productive workers and achieving more overall stable is through the empowerment of women, but they’re realizing that goal can conflict with the goal of increasing the population. New initiatives including bonuses paid out for babies is a sign that many countries are trying to encourage high birth rates and more educated women in the workforce.

The Wall Street Journal put together these videos on what it’s like to be a teenage girl in our world today.

Louise Fradet, 16, Paris

Shijir-Erdene, 15, Ulaanbaatar

Najwa Mostafa, 15, Syrian living in Shatila Refugee Camp, Beirut

Maria Luiza Santos, 15, Rio de Janeiro

Jenely Ramirez, 15, New York City

Fauzia Mohammed, 15, Nairobi

The Chilean government last year announced plans for a “baby bonus,” for parents who have a third child, following the lead of France, Australia and many others, which already have incentives for parents to have more children. Estonia in 2004 began offering working mothers 15 months of their salaries if they take time off to have babies.

In South Korea, the government has adopted Project Happiness to subsidize child care at home and to designate companies “family friendly.” The label entitles the firms to low-interest loans, among other things, if enough employees participate in programs such as a month of fully paid paternity leave and 6 p.m. dismissals on Wednesdays to go home for a family dinner.

For many, the gold standard is France, which has managed to keep its fertility rate at around two—significantly higher than its European peers such as Germany, Italy and Spain. The French government has for many years subsidized child care and offered generous maternity benefits.

In East Asian countries, as in much of Europe, economic development and education have empowered women to make decisions on their own fertility. In many surveys, they report wanting two children, but in reality many are having only one—or none at all—because they are finding it too stressful to combine employment outside the home with child-raising, experts say.

“The biggest challenge is how to balance work and family life,” says Lee Ki-soon, director of the Korean Ministry of Gender Equality & Family.

“These women are now too stressed out to try to have children,” Dr. Bongaarts says. “If you can solve that dilemma, you can raise the fertility rate.”


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