Do people have more sex in a recession? We’ve just undergone the biggest baby boom in 40 years. It’s the reason there are now 63.7 million of us on these isles – a leap of 419,000 people in 12 months, more than any other country in Europe. If it seems especially busy down at the park this weekend, bear in mind that our population is rocketing by 48 an hour.
The bulk of this growth (61 per cent) is due to the biggest number of births in Britain since 1972. These nippers are the worker bees of the future (yes I’m talking to you in cot 7). Of course, they will place more pressure on school places, health services, housing, the transport network, countryside... but without them our pensions are doomed, the welfare state looks shaky and funding for public services will shrivel. And anyway, babies are fun. Sometimes.
Immigration is certainly a factor in this fertility boom: the prevalence of young migrants to the UK means that one in four new babies last year has a foreign-born mother, whereas that figure was one in six a decade ago.
But the other factor is the recession. The worldwide trend, reflected in the US and continental Europe, has been for a fall in fertility during this downturn, attributed to women/couples postponing babies until their finances improve.
Not in the UK, though. Here, some women are “choosing childbearing over employment”, according to statisticians, and couples have stayed in more – nudge wink. Fertility treatment has also continued to improve, allowing more women over 35 to have children.