Worldwide: ‘Remarkable’ decline in fertility rates

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Source: BBC

By James Gallagher; Health and science correspondent, BBC News

There has been a remarkable global decline in the number of children women are having, say researchers.

Their report found fertility rate falls meant nearly half of countries were now facing a “baby bust” – meaning there are insufficient children to maintain their population size.

The researchers said the findings were a “huge surprise”.

And there would be profound consequences for societies with “more grandparents than grandchildren”.

How big has the fall been?

The study, published in the Lancet, followed trends in every country from 1950 to 2017.

In 1950, women were having an average of 4.7 children in their lifetime. The fertility rate all but halved to 2.4 children per woman by last year.

But that masks huge variation between nations.

The fertility rate in Niger, west Africa, is 7.1, but in the Mediterranean island of Cyprus women are having one child, on average.

In the UK, the rate is 1.7, similar to most Western European countries.

How high does the fertility rate have to be?

Whenever a country’s average fertility rate drops below approximately 2.1 then populations will eventually start to shrink (this “baby bust” figure is significantly higher in countries which have high rates of death in childhood).

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1 reply

  1. High birth rates and deaths in childhood are due to poverty. When that changes it also affects births and deaths, with more affluent societies choosing not to have large families. Poorer societies should be helped to limit their birth rates, so that they too can make progress in education and development.

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