Known as a politically incorrect mover and shaker, Dragan Markovic is the long-standing mayor of Jagodina (Strawberryville). He’s never been known for his sophistication or class, but he has been known to get things done.
The Serbian population is declining, and this mayor of Strawberryville wants to do something about it. With a fertility rate of only 1.4 children per woman, Serbia faces a major population crisis: if nothing changes, the Serbian population will eventually die out, falling victim to an ever-increasing worldwide trend: lowering birthrates contributing to an aging and decreasing population. Serbia ranks 198 on a list of 222 countries ordered by fertility rate. Though many would blame a poor economy for this birth rate problem, (how can you afford children without a decent paycheck), I would argue otherwise. Declining birthrates are typically the problem of developed, prosperous countries, not their struggling counterparts. Poverty generally leads to larger families, not smaller ones.
Mayor Dragan Markovic made an attempt to reverse this trend by sending 300 singles over the age of 38 on a free romantic Greek vacation in hopes that sparks will fly. On the kickoff romantic dinner for these lucky singles, roses and flickering candles set the scene. Mayor Markovic stands up and announces to his crowd, “Each year, a town the size of 25,000 people is wiped out in Serbia.” Ziveli! Now that’s a romantic pick up line if I ever heard one.
Not only are the villages getting smaller as young people leave towns and move to larger cities like Belgrade, but people are also continuing to emigrate out of the country altogether for a better life elsewhere. Combine these two factors with a declining birthrate of Serbian citizens and you have a recipe for extinction. This disturbing trend is seen throughout many other parts of the world. Even in the United States, we are barely able to maintain a constant population rate and this is achieved thanks to immigration.
Though I admire the mayor’s unconventional tactics, they are flawed. Gathering these singles for a free romantic vacation is highly unlikely to lead to any births 9 months later. The flaw here, besides the obvious fact that this is a forced, awkward, situation, is that all the singles participating are over the age of 38. With fertility decreasing significantly as age increases, it seems like a futile attempt on the mayor’s part. In addition to having difficult conceiving, women of this age are also significantly more likely than their younger counterparts to have ectopic pregnancies, miscarriages, and have babies with downs syndrome and other birth defects. Perhaps Markovic would have more success with a much lower minimum age for these participants.
Though I admire the mayor’s bold attempt in reversing this disturbing trend, I doubt its effectiveness. Catching these people at such a later stage in singlehood seems like a last-ditch effort to reap the harvest of a crop when it’s past growing season. He’ d be better off conditioning high school students on the values of family building or trying to encourage families with at least one child to have an additional baby with tax credits and incentives. Nevertheless, at least some people in Strawberryville are having a good time. A free vacation may be just the ticket to creating a fresh perspective, a positive spin on putting roots down in small town Strawberryville.