Fertility rates in England and Wales drop to lowest since 1938

Pandemic and financial strains thought to have contributed to the decline

Olivia Petter
Friday 15 October 2021 11:20

The number of women giving birth in England and Wales has fallen to the lowest level since records began in 1938, new data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows.

According to the ONS, the total fertility rate fell to 1.58 children per woman in 2020.

The figure is 4.2 per cent lower than it was in 2019 and 3.1 per cent lower than it was in 2001, which, up until now, was the lowest fertility rate on record.

It marks the fifth year in a row that fertility rates have declined.

The date also showed that 29.3 per cent of live births in 2020 were among women born outside of the UK, marking the highest this figure has been since 1969.

The most common country of birth for mothers and fathers born outside the UK was Pakistan, while the second was Romania.

This was followed by Poland, India, Bangladesh and Nigeria.

The ONS data also found that there were 2,371 stillbirths in England and Wales in 2020, which is slightly down from the number in 2019.

The average age for new mothers is currently 30.7 years old, which is the same as it was in 2019. This figure has been steadily increasing since 1973 as women continue to have children later in their lives.

“This data reflects trends towards later motherhood and smaller family size,” says Katherine O’Brien, associate director at the BPAS.

“There are a variety of reasons why women are choosing to delay having children and have smaller families — these include the desire to progress at work, an awareness of the ‘motherhood pay penalty’, and the ever-increasing cost of raising a child.

“It may well be the hardship and economic uncertainty due to the pandemic has accelerated these trends. We’ve seen over the last week absurd calls for women to be educated so they ‘don’t forget to have a baby’. This data reflects the fact that it is tough to become a parent and tough to raise a child.”

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