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Britain’s birth rate halves as wealthy countries face ‘low fertility future’

birth
birth

Britain’s birth rate has fallen to a record low as a growing number of women shun parenthood.

New figures show that UK births have almost halved since 1960, mirroring a broader trend across the world’s wealthiest economies.

The UK’s birth rate is currently 1.53 children per woman, which the the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) classes as well below the 2.1 needed to maintain a country’s population at its current level.

Over the past decade the UK’s birth rate has fallen by 20.5pc, which is the largest drop of any country in the G7, according to the OECD.

The average number of children per woman across the OECD’s 38 member countries fell from 3.3 in 1960 to 1.5 in 2022.

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This led the Paris-based organisation to warn that rich countries must prepare for a “low-fertility future”.

Declining birth rates could lead to a fall in the world’s population by the next decade, the OECD said, warning that deaths could outpace births for the first time in at least half a century.

An ageing population could place “significant social and economic pressures on governments”, it added.

The organisation said countries with a falling birth rate must consider ways to mitigate “the economic and fiscal implications of a potentially shrinking workforce”.

It said that issues such as a lack of affordable housing could no longer be ignored as a growing number of young people are forced to live with their parents.

Stefano Scarpetta, the director of the OECD, said: “Facilitating parenthood decisions requires comprehensive and reliable support to families.

“This includes affordable housing, family policies that help reconcile work and family life, and coherence with other public policies that promote access to quality jobs and career progression of women.”

There had been hopes that a post-Covid baby boom in 2021 would continue after the pandemic.

However, birth rates have weakened amid growing financial pressures, including high nursery fees, rising house prices and stagnating pay.

Seventeen countries, including the UK, were classed as having record low birth rates, according to the latest data available.

However, Britain’s rate of 1.53 remains above Italy (1.2), Germany (1.2), Canada (1.3) and Japan (1.3).

The OECD said recent global crises such as Covid may have spread a “feeling of uncertainty and unpredictability” for young people, adding that “increased labour market and housing insecurities” may complicate a transition to parenthood.

It said that policies that encourage women to combine work and family life “leads to better economic outcomes and higher fertility rates”.

There have been long-standing fears over Britain’s falling fertility rate, which some economists and politicians fear will hold back economic growth.

Economists have suggested offsetting the impact of a shrinking working-age population by raising the retirement age or allowing greater levels of immigration.

The costs associated with parenthood have prompted many people to have children in later life.

Data shows that those in the world’s richest economies are now having their first child on average at the age of 29 in 2022, compared to 26 in 2000.

The OECD said there had been a change in attitude towards having children as both “young men and women increasingly find meaning in life outside of parenthood, and there is a broad movement towards an increased acceptance of not having children”.

When comparing women born in 1935 and 1975, the percentage of women without a child about doubled in Estonia, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal and Spain.