French birth rate hits lowest level in 40 years as women study for longer before having children, report finds

France saw 34,000 fewer babies born last year than 2014, report finds

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The Independent Online

The number of French women having children has hit its lowest level in 40 years, a report has found.

The country's birth rate fell to an average of 1.93 children per woman last year, compared with two per woman in 2014, according to the latest population study by France's National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE).

This decline, saw a total of 34,000 less babies born. It is the lowest the country's birth rate has been since 1976.

The decrease has been linked to France's ageing population, which has led to a steady decline in women at child-bearing age in the country since the 1990s.

Marie Reynaud, head of INSEE, told The Independent the decline in births is also due to the fact that French women are choosing to have children later in life, so they can spend more time on studying and establishing a “stable situation”. 

“The French are having children increasingly later in life, which naturally leads to a fall in fertility,” she said.

“It is a phenomenon that explains why people are spending longer on their studies. Women are giving themselves time to find a permanent job and waiting to have kids once they are in a stable situation.” 

The decline was most pronounced among women aged 25 to 29, with about 11.5 children per 100 women in this age group. This compared with 12.3 children in 2014.

The trend is also declining among the 15-24 age group, with 2.6 children born per 100 women in this age bracket in 2016, compared with 2.7 the previous year. 

In 2015, France had the highest birth rate in Europe with 1.96 children born per woman, just above Ireland, which had 1.94 children per woman.

Portugal had the lowest rate with just 1.3 children born per woman.

Despite reduced births, the total population of France has still grown by 0.4 per cent in the last year, with a total of 66.9 million people in France as of January 2017, the report said.