Clearly, the population boom of 4.5 billion people was the wake-up call that the global community needed. After decade-long “baby booms” in which having a large family was seen as one of the ultimate signs of success, people began to realize in the 1990s that this rapid population growth might become a problem.
By the end of the 20th century, the world population had reached a whopping 6.1 billion, a far cry from the 1.6 billion people who inhabited the Earth at the beginning of the 20th century. Fears spread about a population too large to be sustained, leading countries to rethink antiabortion laws and drastically reduce the price of contraceptives.
Although this tactic worked for countries like the United Kingdom, some nations utterly failed to control their exponentially rising birthrates. Still others succeeded far too well.
Whether population growth or decline is the problem, countries have tried some pretty odd things to control birthrates. But these 10 ways are among the absolute strangest.
10‘Do It For Denmark’ Campaign
With a 0.4 percent population growth rate and a birthrate of 1.73 children per woman, Denmark’s population was in some serious trouble back in 2014 (and still is). With a rapidly aging population and a birthrate that wasn’t high enough to replace the current population, Denmark was spiraling uncontrollably toward a population decline and a labor crisis—something that terrifies all governments. But perhaps even more concerned than the government was Danish travel agency Spies Rejser, which claimed that a declining Danish population would mean fewer Danish travelers and thus, less business for them.
But the creative employees at Spies Rejser weren’t content to just sit around and worry. Instead, the company released a surprisingly bold, somewhat scandalous commercial campaign aimed at adults, with the goal to get couples to have more children. It even had a catchy slogan: “Do it for Denmark!”
The bold commercial started out by asking a shocking question—“Can sex save Denmark’s future?”—before letting a picture of a solemn elderly couple fill the screen, describing Denmark’s population problem, and sharing a video clip of a young adult girl visiting the hotel in which she was conceived.
As viewers watched a young woman try on lingerie and then gallavant with her boyfriend around Paris, the voice of the commercial stated that Danes have 46 percent more sex when on vacation, leading to 10 percent of all Danish babies being conceived during a holiday. Near the end of the video, Danes were encouraged to take a romantic vacation and, to sweeten the deal, use the “ovulation discount” when booking through Spies Rejser to “get it on.”
If you could prove that you conceived a child while on vacation, Spies promised to reward parents with three years of baby supplies and a kid-friendly vacation. It was a hard offer to pass up, the commercial pushed, especially when “all the fun is in the participation.”
9Hate Taxes? Have A Baby In Romania!
Facing population growth that was close to zero in the late 1960s, Romania banned abortion and contraceptives, made divorce almost impossible, and began imposing a tax burden on childless families. Married or single, childless men and women over age 25 were subject to increased taxes that could amount to 20 percent of their total income.
Police were stationed in hospitals to ensure that no abortions took place, and women were even subjected to monthly gynecological exams to detect and preserve pregnancies. At the same time, childless couples over age 25 were interrogated about their sex lives.
On the other hand, Romania offered “family allowances” paid by the state, which increased each time a child was born. Families with more than three children had their income taxes slashed by 30 percent. The campaign proved to be disastrous, resulting in hundreds of thousands of children being abandoned at birth and put into orphanages.
8Have A Kid, Be A Heroine
Convinced that the way to become a world superpower was to boast a humongous workforce, Soviet Russia took to branding mothers as heroines to incite a baby boom. Mothers who bore and raised at least five children were given the honorable title of “Mother Heroine” and awarded the Soviet Motherhood Medal, established in 1944.
A Second Class Medal was awarded to mothers who bore five children, provided that the youngest child reached one year old and all the others were still alive. Approximately eight million of these brass medals were issued, double that of the silver First Class Medal, which was awarded to the heroine who birthed six or more children and brought them up. Though medals were highly coveted during the 20th century, you can buy them for cheap now on eBay if you so desire.
7Sex Breaks In South Korea
After the birthrate in South Korea plummeted to one of the lowest in the developed world, around 1.2 children per woman, the government took it upon itself to get people interested in becoming parents again by introducing “Family Day.” On the third Wednesday of every month, government offices now close early at 7:00 PM, encouraging their employees to go home and spend quality time with their families—and make bigger ones.
South Korean officials hoped that the reduced workday would “help staff get dedicated to childbirth and upbringing.” Unfortunately, the country didn’t see any noticeable increase in births accredited to ‘Family Day.” But when your birthrate is lower than the elderly nation that is Japan, every little bit helps.
6Sterilization ‘Camps’ In India
Considered by some as the darkest time in India’s history, 1975 saw the suspension of democratic rights and violations of human dignity by Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who instituted a 21-month mass sterilization program. Although democratic rights have been restored, sterilization continues to be India’s biggest weapon to combat rapid population growth.
Women are persuaded to be voluntarily sterilized through cash rewards. Those who don’t accept the money are forcibly sterilized. Other consequences are also meted out by the government for having a large family, such as being prevented from owning a gun or holding public office.
Sterilization “camps” are among the most controversial practices. In one camp at an abandoned hospital in a rural part of India, 83 women were sterilized in five hours by a single doctor who was said to have dipped his equipment only briefly in disinfectant.
5Mentos: Working To Increase Birthrates
Panicking over a birthrate that was less than one child per woman, the government of Singapore partnered with Mentos in 2012 to create the “National Night” campaign in which a three-minute Mentos commercial encouraged babymaking through a rap about “doing your civic duty.”
The video started out with a rap about not watching fireworks and “[making] ’em instead.” Then it moved on to the chorus in which a singer croons that it’s “National Night,” encouraging viewers with words like “let’s make Singapore’s birthrate spike.” The video ends with couples being encouraged to “get your National Night on” and let their “patriotism explode.”
Whether it worked has yet to be determined. But one thing is sure: Singapore is the first (and probably only) country to associate mints with sex.
4Robot Babies In Japan
Apparently, the one demographer who claimed that the Japanese would be extinct in 1,000 years got to the Japanese government. After a period of ignoring what was obviously a growing population crisis, Japanese officials are finally working to increase the birthrate—and they are doing so through robot babies.
Japanese students at the University of Tsukuba created a robot baby who sniffles, cries, giggles, and sneezes just like a human baby. Adults are encouraged to view and play with the robot baby. The ultimate goal is to spark a yearning for this kind of interaction with a real baby in the viewer’s own life, providing the motivation that the Japanese need to conceive.
3Secretly Sterilizing Women In Uzbekistan
Despite the culture of Uzbekistan, which views having a large family as the definition of success, the government seems to be concerned with the 2.53 births per woman. So concerned, in fact, that the government ran a secret campaign to sterilize women without their knowledge or consent.
From 2010–2012, women were sterilized without their knowledge or consent in the hospital or doctor’s office after having their second child. Anonymous testimonies from patients and doctors have been collected, revealing that doctors are given quotas on how many women to sterilize each month. The pressure to sterilize girls is especially high in rural areas, where doctors are forced to sterilize up to eight girls per week.
2Lebensborn In Nazi Germany
Although Nazi propaganda encouraging German mothers to bear as many children as possible to provide for the German army is relatively well-known, a more secret program was uncovered in the 21st century. Called Lebensborn, the program aimed to enlarge and perpetuate Aryan characteristics and the Aryan race.
Pregnant women secretly gave birth in clinics scattered about Germany and were cared for by doctors and nurses as long as they possessed the Aryan physicality of light hair and eyes. The goal of the program was to “further the Aryan race [by] whatever means were available,” a source reported.
1Need A New Car? Pregnancy Will Take Care Of That!
Though the Soviet era in Russia spiked the birthrate, the deplorable conditions of Soviet Russia raised the death rate to an equally high level, leaving the country with a miniscule population of youth after the Soviet collapse in the late 20th century. Determined to increase their population of young people, the Russian government declared in 2007 that September 12 would be the National Day of Conception.
The national holiday, which gives couples the day off work, was created in hopes that couples would use their free time to breed (also known as “doing their civic duty”). To up the ante, women who conceived on September 12 and gave birth on June 12 (Russia Day) were eligible to win money, cars, or appliances like a new refrigerator.
In 2007, the holiday proved successful as the birthrate of the Russian region increased by 4.5 percent. After all, who would pass up the chance for a free car?