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Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Research relating to the decision of whether to have children or not

There hasn't been a huge amount of research on this topic. Some of the research I have come across in writing the book is around declining birth rates.

According to the UK Office of National Statistics in 1996, 14,952 mothers over 35 years of age had their first child; in 2001 this had risen to 27,468 with the total number of women having a first child remaining relatively consistent. Fertility rates reveal that between 2001 and 2004 the number of births per 1,000 women increased from 669,100 to 716,000. Over the past 30 years birth rates have increased for women aged 30-40 while they have fallen for younger women

A report from Finland called ‘Trends in Social Protection in Finland 2004’ stated that:

‘There is also an increasing number of women who remain childless. At the moment, 15 percent of middle-aged women are childless. In the future this figure is expected to rise to 20 percent. Childlessness is most common among highly educated women.’

At a recent European summit on population and family policies across the European Union, Joakim Palme, Director, Institute for Future Studies, Stockholm, described the findings of their recent report Sustainable policies in an ageing Europe: modernising family polices. This analysed social trends in Europe: an ageing society, declining marriage, fertility and birth rates, and an increased female labour force.

Mr Palme said that if the European social model was to be sustainable, policy-makers needed to make wide-ranging reforms to current social protection systems and fine-tune the relationship between encouraging higher birth rates, improving Europe’s skills base and increasing the labour supply to enlarge the future tax base.

Education plays an important role, as building up Europe’s “human capital” (i.e. a highly-skilled work force) will increase GDP per capita growth, providing revenue to care for an ageing population.

However, the study also found that, in some Member States, prolonging education reduced fertility levels as women delayed having children to continue their studies and some then decided not to have children at all because of the negative impact this would have on their employment opportunities.

Reports from Japan have been published with similar findings. In 2005, the Japanese government reported that the birth rate was the lowest since the government began keeping records in 1947. The declining rate threatens to leave Japan with a labour shortage, a reduced tax base and a strained pension system. As a response, Japan's government began a five-year project to lift the rate, building more day-care centres and encouraging men's paternity leave.

"The trend towards having fewer children will have a grave impact on the economy and society as it slows economic growth, increases the burden for social security and taxes, and reduces the vitality of regional society," Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said to a news conference on 31st May 2006.

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