Fertility statistics

From Statistics Explained

Data from May 2014. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: May 2015.
Figure 1: Number of live births, EU-28, 1961–2012 (1)
(million) - Source: Eurostat (demo_gind)
Table 1: Total fertility rate, 1960–2012
(live births per woman) - Source: Eurostat (demo_frate)
Table 2: Fertility indicators, EU-28, 2002–12 (1) - Source: Eurostat (demo_find)

This article looks at the development of a range of indicators concerning the number of births and fertility across the European Union (EU). Fertility steadily declined from the mid-1960s through to the turn of the century in those countries that form the EU today. However, in recent years the total fertility rate in the EU-28 has shown a slight tendency of rising again.

Main statistical findings

In 2012, 5.2 million children were born in the EU-28, which equated to a crude birth rate (the number of live births per 1 000 inhabitants) of 10.4.

Compared with the 1960s the number of live births in the EU-28 declined sharply from 7.6 million in 1961 to a low of 5.0 million in 2002 (see Figure 1). This was followed by a modest rebound in the number of live births, with a high of 5.5 million children born in the EU-28 in 2008, in turn followed by further annual reductions during the period 2009–12.

In recent decades Europeans have generally been having fewer children, and this pattern partly explains the slowdown in the EU-28’s population growth (see [Population_and_population_change_statistics|population and population change statistics]). A total fertility rate (the number of live births per woman) of around 2.1 live births per woman is considered to be the replacement level: in other words, the average number of live births per woman required to keep the population size constant if there were no inward or outward migration. The fertility rate in the EU-28 has been much lower than this replacement level in recent decades. It stood at 1.45 live births per woman in the EU-28 in 2002. During the last decade a slight recovery was observed in most EU Member States, such that by 2012 the EU-28’s total fertility rate was 1.58. This slight increase in the total fertility rate observed in recent years may, in part, be attributed to a catching-up process: when women give birth later in life, the total fertility rate tends to decrease at first, before a subsequent recovery.

Total fertility rates across EU Member States tended to converge during the last few decades. In 1980, the gap between the highest rate (3.2 live births per woman in Ireland) and the lowest rate (1.5 live births per woman in Luxembourg) was 1.7 live births per woman (see Table 1). By 1990, the difference had decreased to 1.1 live births per woman, and by 2012 it had narrowed still further to around 0.7 live births per woman. Ireland and France continued to report the highest fertility rates for the most recent period available (2012), being the only EU Member States with just over 2.0 live births per woman (this was also the case in Iceland and Turkey). By contrast, the lowest fertility rates in 2012 were recorded in Portugal, Poland, Spain, Hungary, Slovakia and Greece (all around 1.3 live births per woman); some of these Member States were particularly affected by the financial and economic crisis, which may have caused some potential parents to defer their decision to have (more) children.

As noted above, another reason that partly explains the downward development of fertility rates within the EU Member States is the decision of many parents to delay starting a family. While only a relatively short time series is available for the EU-28 aggregate, Table 2 shows that the mean age of women at childbirth continued to rise between 2002 and 2012, from 29.1 to 30.1 years.

Data sources and availability

Eurostat compiles information for a large range of demographic data, including statistics on the number of live births by sex, by the mother’s age, education and marital status. Fertility statistics are also collected in relation to the number of births by the rank of the child (first, second, third child and so on). A series of fertility indicators are produced from the information collected, including the total fertility rate and fertility rates according to the mother’s age, the mean age of women at childbirth, the crude birth rate or the relative proportion of births outside of marriage.

Context

The EU’s social policy does not include a specific strand for family issues. Policymaking in this area remains the exclusive responsibility of EU Member States, reflecting different family structures, historical developments, social attitudes and traditions from one Member State to another. Nevertheless, policymakers may well evaluate fertility statistics as a background for family policymaking. Furthermore, a number of common demographic themes are apparent across the whole of the EU, such as a reduction in the average number of children being born per woman and the increasing mean age of mothers at childbirth.

See also

Further Eurostat information

Publications

Main tables

Demography (t_pop)
Demography - National data (t_demo)
Fertility (t_demo_fer)
Total fertility rate (tsdde220)
Mean age of women at childbirth (tps00017)
Live births outside marriage (tps00018)

Database

Demography (pop)
Demography - National data (demo)
Fertility (demo_fer)
Live births by mother's age at last birthday and legal marital status (demo_fagec)
Live births by mother's age reached during the year and legal marital status (demo_fager)
Live births by mother's age at last birthday and by birth order (demo_fordagec)
Live births by mother's age reached during the year and by birth order (demo_fordager)
Live births mother's age at last birthday and by newborn's sex (demo_fasec)
Live births by mother's age at last birthday and educational attainment (ISCED 1997) (demo_faeduc)
Live births by mother's age at last birthday and citizenship (demo_faczc)
Live births by mother's age at last birthday and country of birth (demo_facbc)
Live births by mother's age at last birthday and activity status (demo_faemplc)
Live births by month (demo_fmonth)
Fertility indicators (demo_find)
Fertility rates by age (demo_frate)
Legally induced abortions by mother's age (demo_fabort)
Legally induced abortions by mother's age and number of previous live births (demo_fabortord)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

  • Fertility (ESMS metadata file — demo_fer_esms)
  • Population (ESMS metadata file — demo_pop_esms)

Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)

External links


Views