April 23, 2024
Economy

Fertility rate slumps to record low in ‘slow-burn’ crisis


To offset the impact of a shrinking working-age population, politicians will be forced to find solutions such as raising the retirement age or allowing greater immigration, he said.

Mr Monden said: “You don’t have to say right now we need to increase the pension age but it will be a reality if we have these levels of fertility for another decade. Something will inevitably have to give.”

The decline shatters hopes that a small post-Covid baby boom in 2021, which pushed up the fertility rate for the first time in 13 years, would maintain its momentum.

Instead, like many rich countries, the UK is headed for a baby bust as demographers warn that high living costs, nursery fees, house prices and stagnating pay for young people mean rates will likely continue to fall.

The number of children British women have has been in decline for a long time, falling from an average of nearly three in 1964.

The latest decline is “a new low, but it is not unexpected”, Mr Monden said. He added: “I think it’s quite likely that we see small, further decreases.”

Mr Monden’s concern is shared by Anna Rotkirch, a leading expert on European fertility rates who is a professor at the Population Research Institute at the Family Federation of Finland.

She said: “Birth rates have gone lower than anyone predicted. We do not know in Europe whether we in the longer run will go below one in some countries or not.”

The average fertility rate across the European Union was 1.53 in 2021. In South Korea, it was 0.82 and is since believed to have fallen further to 0.72.

To maintain a population at its current level, women need to have 2.1 children on average. But any return to such numbers is unlikely, Ms Rotkirch warned: “This kind of dream of how will we get back to a fertility rate of two now looks very unrealistic. That is not on the table at the moment. The question is how long will the decline continue.”

She added: “We see quite dramatically the continuation of the trend where birth rates keep coming down even in countries where they used to be quite high a decade ago, like the UK and France. Very few European countries appear to have even modest increases in birth rates.”



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