NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Europe Bearing Responsibility for Low Fertility Rates

December 26, 2002

Fertility rates in Europe have been rapidly declining and now European officials are being forced to evaluate the consequences.

Demographers consider an average fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman of child-bearing age as just enough to replenish the population.

  • But in Spain, Sweden, Germany, and Greece the rate fell to 1.4 children or less last year.
  • That has increasingly profound and disturbing economic and social implications, including an aged work force and the need to cut government pensions for retirees.
  • Plans to cut immigration levels may have to be scrapped in favor of attracting foreigners to fill job vacancies.
  • Many countries are already expanding tax breaks for parents, child-care alternatives, or maternity and paternity benefits -- acknowledging that a high cost of living and more women in the work force can be obstacles to large families.

Other incentives under consideration include cheaper utility bills for large families, assistance for young couples trying to afford homes, the creation of hundreds of thousands of new preschools and nursery schools, and longer hours for existing schools -- an accommodation for working parents.

Source: Frank Bruni, "Persistent Drop in Fertility Reshapes Europe's Future," New York Times, December 26, 2002.


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