Europe wants more children
A controversy has aroused an advertisement launched by the Italian Ministry of Health: “Beauty has no age. Fertility has”. The aim of the campaign was to make women and men sensitive on the prevention of infertility as well as to call their attention to the problem of low natality. Specifically, the fertility rate in Italy is 1.45 children per woman, far below the 2.1 that makes it possible to have a generational change. Due to various political statements against the message launched by the Italian Ministry of Health, the advertising has disappeared, which doesn’t change the fact that births are in its lowest level since the unification of Italy: in 2015, there were 15.000 children fewer born compared to 2014 and the average age of Italian women to have their first child has risen to 31.6 years.
Other EU countries have the same problem as Italy (see chart below), we can also observe the case of Spain, where 87% of women have children, but the quantity of women with just one child is raising, placing the rate in 1.3 children per woman. The first consequence of this falling birth rate has been that, for the first time since there are annual records, in Spain there have been more deaths than birth.
The causes are many, but according to studies by researchers of the Spanish Institute of Economics, Geography and Demography http://iegd.csic.es “…job precariousness, the fear of losing career options for being a mother, the almost impossible balance between work and family or the lack of public policies that redistribute the burden of parenting…” are some of them. They have suggested some actions that could reverse in part this scenario: to create a powerful network of children’s day-care centres from 0 to 3 years of age or reduce gender inequality in the couple, for example. “It wouldn’t be wrong to aim the campaign at men…” said Gosta Esping-Andersen, Professor of Sociology at the University Pompeu Fabra: “The Scandinavian males help 45% in household chores and fertility rates are in the high range of Europe. What encourages women to be mothers is that they are satisfied with the balance of marital roles…”
Finally, several professionals suggest “to extend paternity leave, as planned in 2007 in Spain, and also to make it non-transferable so that women are not always penalized in the labor sphere”. To change the replacement threshold seems difficult. But it is possible to go from a very low threshold to another moderately low. At least welfare deficit would be reduced.
France has, along with Ireland, the highest fertility rate in the EU (2.01 children / woman) and allocates be-tween 3% and 4% of its GDP to its natality policies.
UK has seen a rebound of its natality, due to immigration and its traditional policies to help families.
Denmark: gender equality and generous benefits for parents are the keys to the high birth rates in Scandinavian countries.
Germany: despite the 265,000 million euros a year dedicated to family allowances, the birth rate does not go up. Now the government is committed to family reconciliation.
Greece: in 2015 there were more deaths than births recorded. In addition, it is the country in Europe with more legal abortions.
Portugal: its fertility rate is the lowest in the EU (1.23 children / woman). It is the country where births have fallen the most since 2001.