“Norway needs more children! I don't think I need to tell anyone how this is done," Norway's prime minister said cheekily, but she was raising a real concern.
Too few babies are being born in the Nordic region.
The Nordic countries were long a bastion of strong fertility rates on an Old Continent that is rapidly getting older. But they are now experiencing a decline that threatens their cherished welfare model, which is funded by taxpayers.
In Norway, Finland and Iceland, birth rates dropped to historic lows in 2017, with 1.49 to 1.71 children born per woman. Just a few years earlier, their birth rates hovered close to the 2.1 level required for their populations to remain stable.
There's no single explanation, but financial uncertainty and a sharp rise in housing costs are seen as likely factors.
In the long term, this means there will be fewer people of working age to pay taxes that fund the generous state welfare systems.
Experts present differing diagnoses and prescriptions to remedy the situation. In Norway, one economist concerned about the effect the slowing demographics will have on economic growth has suggested giving women 500,000 kroner (50,000 euros, $58,550) in pension savings for each child born.
Finnish municipalities have already decided to loosen their purse strings to encourage locals to get busy under the covers. The town of Miehikkala, home to 2,000 people, is offering 10,000 euros for each baby born and raised in the municipality.
In Denmark, Copenhagen has meanwhile turned its attention to men, who are in less of a hurry to become parents than women, with a campaign aimed at raising awareness about how sperm quality declines with age.
But when all that is still not enough to encourage people to have more children, immigration can be a lifeline -- or a threat, depending on the point of view.