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UK birth rate: Number of children being born in Britain hits 10-year low

An ageing population and declining birth rate could result in growing pressures on public services - particularly if immigration is curtailed after Brexit

Caroline Mortimer
Monday 20 November 2017 19:40 GMT
The number of births is at its lowest rate for 10 years - and the population is decreasing in Scotland
The number of births is at its lowest rate for 10 years - and the population is decreasing in Scotland (Getty)

The rate at which babies are being born in the UK has fallen to its lowest level for a decade.

There were 774,835 live births in the UK in 2016, the lowest rate since 748,563 live births in 2006 and down from a peak of 812,970 births in 2012, new data from the Office for National Statistics show.

Although the population is still growing overall – there were 597,206 deaths recorded – the new data show the demographic decline in certain parts of the UK with less immigration such as Scotland where there were 54,488 live births and 56,728 deaths.

This is at the lowest point since 2006 when 55,690 babies were born – and 55,093 deaths – with the rate peaking in 2008 at 60,041 live births compared to 55,700 deaths.

The news serves as a stark warning about could happen to the rest of the UK once there are greater restrictions on immigration.

Immigrants tend to be younger and are more likely to work in the lower skilled jobs UK workers do not want.

In addition, foreign-born mothers have more babies on average than their UK-born peers.

According to data released in July, 28 per cent of live births the UK are to foreign-born women – even though foreign-born people only make up eight per cent of the total population.

An ONS projection released last month found the UK population is expected to reach 70 million in the next 10 years but 54 per cent of this will be fuelled by external immigration.

This means if the Government is successful in getting net migration down to the “tens of thousands” by ending freedom of movement after Brexit it could mean the UK will find it harder to cope with the burden of an ageing population.

Earlier this year, a cross-party committee in the Scottish Parliament looking at the economic impact of Brexit on Scotland backed the calls of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon for the country to have its own sub-national deal on immigration.

It said the country depended on young migrants from the EU to ensure there were enough working tax-payers to pay for the increasingly elderly population and the pressure they place on the local health and social care systems which have been devolved to Holyrood.

It said: “The committee believes ... that there are acute risks to Scotland of a loss of the existing EU migrants or a decline in future migration.

“This leads us to conclude that there has to be a bespoke – or differentiated – solution for immigration policy in Scotland in the future (which) should be fully explored by the Scottish government and raised by it in its discussions with the UK and other devolved administrations.”

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