A piece in yesterday’s Times:
Younger women are turning their backs on motherhood with the fertility rate for women under 30 falling to a record low.
There were 640,370 babies born in England and Wales last year, down by 2.5 per cent since 2018 and by more than 12 per cent since the most recent peak in 2012.
The fertility rate fell to 1.65 children per woman in 2019, down from 1.7 children per woman the previous year, the Office for National Statistics said.
This peaked at a rate of 2.93 children per woman in 1964, following the post-war baby boom.
Women of all ages were less likely to have babies other than women in their 40s, among whom the fertility rate went up.
For the fifth year running the fertility rate for women aged under 20 was lower than that for women of 40 or older.
Fertility rates for women under 30 years were the lowest level since records began in 1938 while in Wales the birthrate for women of all ages, at 1.54 children per woman, were the lowest since data began to be collected in 1982.
The trends suggest women are progressively delaying childbearing to older ages as more women stay in education for longer and marry or enter into committed relationships later in their lives.
Experts also say this reflects choices of more women to focus on their careers in their 20s and 30s and the pressure of high mortgage bills and rents which mean that women in dual-earning couples find it harder to cope with a drop in income while taking maternity leave.
Improved access to contraception and to abortions is another reason for the long-term decline in birthrates, statisticians say.
The average age of women giving birth, which has risen steadily over four decades, was 30.7 years old compared with an average of 26.4 in 1973.
Since the early 1970s, the ONS said that fertility rate in England and Wales has been below that required for the population to replace itself in size in the long term. For this to happen across the UK women would need on average to have 2.08 children.
David Corps of the ONS said: “The story of births in England and Wales in 2019 is one of decreases and record lows, with the total number of births continuing the fall we’ve seen in recent years. Wales had the lowest fertility rate since our records began and England’s is nearing its record low.”
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