Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Europe isn't producing enough children

Every country in Europe except Turkey and Ireland has a total fertility rate below the replacement rate. That magic number is 2.1. This is the average number of children per woman that stabilises population size over the long run.

Among industrialized countries, the US, France, the UK and Australia tend to have higher than average fertility rates. These countries have a long history of welcoming migrants, who tend to have higher fertility rates than indigenous populations. In the case of the UK, almost one birth in four is now to a mother born overseas.

Eastern European fertility rates are, in part, depressed by the high outward migration rates. Young people tend to be the most eager to leave their homes and search for work abroad. Therefore, the slightly higher than average fertility rates in countries like the UK and France should be weighed against the unusually low fertility rates in countries like Poland and the Czech Republic.

Taking Europe as a whole, the fertility rate is desperately low. Without large migration flows from outside the continent, the European population will soon begin to rapidly shrink. Or to put it more bluntly, Europe isn't producing enough children.


Patrick Mulvey said...

I fail to see why this is a problem. Are you not peddling Malthusianism in reverse?

H said...

Economists always seem to get worked up about this, but it never seems so awful in practice. In Japan, it seems to have allowed a gentle rise in living standards even as the economy overall doesn't grow much at all. Ageing countries tend to be peaceful and law abiding too.

bill said...

The ideal "green" population for the UK is 10 million so those fertility rates are still way to high.