Reasons for low fertility rates in industrialized countries

The New York Times Magazine on Sunday examined why industrialized countries have been experiencing decreased fertility rates and how differing policies regarding maternity leave and worker benefits are affecting the rates.

According to the Times Magazine, fertility rates in more than 90 countries are below the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman, and the "relatively large families of new immigrants" are "staving off a population crisis" in the U.S., which has a fertility rate that "hovers around replacement level."

Some scholars say that many factors -- including greater access to contraception, later marriage and a decrease in "hopefulness about the future" -- account for the decreased fertility rates, but many researchers say that the "particular burdens women face in the work force" also is a factor.

According to Times Magazine, it might be more difficult to be a working parent in the U.S. than in countries experiencing larger decreases in fertility rates because the country spends less on child care than any other industrialized country and paid leave is not guaranteed.

The lowest fertility rates in Western Europe are in countries -- such as Italy, Greece, Portugal and Spain -- where "the old idea that the man is the breadwinner and the woman is the childraiser holds strong," while countries that support the highest numbers of working women -- including Denmark, Finland and Norway -- have among the highest rates in the region, the Times Magazine reports.

Sociologist Ronald Rindfuss said that Norwegian women who live in towns with more day care slots available have more children and begin to have children earlier than women in towns with less day care slots.

In addition, experts have linked an increase in Sweden's birthrate to policies mandating paid maternity leave, the Times Magazine reports (Lerner, New York Times Magazine, 3/4).

Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.


  1. Rikard H-o-gberg Rikard H-o-gberg Sweden says:

    The most important reason to lower fertility rates in industrialized countries is education. The more years of education the fewer children a person has.

    The 'western world' does still not know how to cope with knowledge. The knowlegde of knowledge is not developed in the west. Modern families in the west usually consist of one person. Approx 50% of the households in Europe consists of one person. In some cities 60% and above. This is also the reason why politician do not want to touch these questions. They don't want to loose votes. The fertility rate has to be connected to education. Persons with children have to be able to compete with collegues without children. Especially women have to have other conditions to compete on the labour market and having children.

    There is a great need for Europe to create a long-term constitutional body that politicians can not influence. Assist us in this, if you have possibility.

  2. Erik Morales Erik Morales United States says:

    Many countries have a low birth rate. It's not just in Europe, but it is in East Asian countries too, like Japan, S.Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Vietnam and some poor countries also have low birth rates like Cuba.

  3. swami krishnananda swami krishnananda India says:

    I was of the opinion that people in 90 countries don't marry and produce children like in India it is also compulsory to marry and produce children, wife working will resign the job to take care of the child and indian culture also says that mothering and motherhood and mother are sacred, the what will happen in the 90 countries when it becomes zero polulation
    god save the situation\

    monk and social worker

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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