The global economic downturn stopped the first rise in fertility rates in more than 40 years, research reveals today.
Academics found that the recession of 2008-09 led to a decline in fertility rates as young, professional women feared for their financial future if they became pregnant. The downturn which started three years ago brought to an end the first concerted rise in fertility rates in the developing world since the 1960s, the study found.
In some large countries like the USA and Spain, the recession actually reversed the upward fertility trend. In others like England, Ireland and Italy, the rising fertility rates were interrupted, following a decade of generally rising fertility after 1998.
The study by the Vienna Institute of Demography of the Austrian Academy of Sciences found that there were differing reactions to the recession depending on sex, age, number of children, education level, and migrant status.
Scientists discovered that fertility rates in 26 of the 27 EU nations were steadily rising until 2008 (with stagnation in Luxembourg), when they then began to either decline or stay the same in 17 countries. In 2009 13 EU countries saw their fertility rates decline and another four countries experienced stable fertility rates.
Researchers said that a rise in unemployment and general job uncertainty was a 'key factor' behind this trend. The decline could last until 2013, according to researchers, but is unlikely to affect overall worldwide population growth.
Tomáš Sobotka, one of the authors of the VID study, said: 'Highly educated women react to employment uncertainty by adopting a 'postponement strategy,' especially if they are childless.
'We have noted some specific patterns of behavior; the young and the childless, for example, are less likely to have children during recessions. 'In contrast, less-educated women often maintain or increase their fertility under economic uncertainty.' Study: Mr Sobotka said the current recession has been serious enough to have 'long-lasting effects' on fertility Mr Sobotka also noted that countries who have recently suffered severe debt problems such as Greece, Portugal and Ireland are likely to see much longer-term fertility declines.
He added: 'Countries like Greece, Ireland, Portugal, or Spain are likely to see protracted fertility declines due to a combination of very high unemployment and radical cuts in social spending.'
It was also noted that for men, those with low education and skills faced increasing difficulty in finding a partner or supporting their family, and often showed the largest decline in first child birth rates. Although previous downturns were too short to have a permanent impact on fertility, it has been said that the current recession has been sufficiently serious to have long-lasting effects.
The study adds: 'Massive cuts in public spending in many developed countries, including Spain and the UK, aimed at reducing the budget deficit, will affect social and family-related expenditures and potentially also fertility.'
The study by Tomáš Sobotka and Dimiter Philipov from the Vienna Institute of Demography of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and Vegard Skirbekk from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis is published in the latest issue of Population and Development Review.
Article: 29th June 2011 www.dailymail.co.uk
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