News Arena

Join us

Home
/

why-are-women-choosing-to-have-fewer-babies-in-wealthy-countries

Lifestyle

Why are women choosing to have fewer babies in wealthy countries

Despite highly valuing children and our roles as parents, why are women having so few babies? And, importantly, why should we care? How much fertility is good for a country?

News Arena Network - Melbourne - UPDATED: May 10, 2024, 11:00 PM - 6 mins read

Why are women choosing to have fewer babies in wealthy countries

Why are women choosing to have fewer babies in wealthy countries

Representational Image (shedefined.com)


A recent report from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention shows that US fertility rates dropped 2 per cent in 2023. With the exception of a temporary increase at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the US fertility rate has been falling steadily since 1971.

 

Australia exhibits a similar pattern. Fertility has declined since 2007 despite government attempts to invest in a “baby bonus” to encourage Australian women to have more children.

 

From a global perspective, we can see similar patterns across other industrial nations: Japan, South Korea and Italy have some of the lowest global fertility rates.

 

So, what is going on here? Despite highly valuing children and our roles as parents, why are women having so few babies? And, importantly, why should we care? How much fertility is good for a country? On my recently launched podcast, MissPerceived, I discuss why fertility rates rule the world. For a population to maintain its current size – that is, neither shrink nor grow – the total fertility rate must be above 2.1 births per woman.

 

This is because we need to have enough babies to replace both parents after they die – one baby to replace the mother and one to replace the father, and a little extra to account for infant mortality.

 

In short, if we want a population to grow, we need women to have more than two children. This was exactly what happened in many Western nations, such as Australia, the UK, and the US, following the Second World War. Women had more than 2.1 births, which resulted in a baby boom. Many families grew to three or more children.

 

This type of population structure, replacement or some growth, is critical to creating a healthy working-age population to support the young and old.

 

But, in many countries, the fertility rate is less than the replacement level, which means the population is shrinking. In the US and Australia, the current fertility rate is 1.6. In the UK it is 1.4. In South Korea, it is 0.68.

 

So, these countries are shrinking, and in the case of South Korea, shrinking quickly. What this means is that more people are dying in these countries than being born. As a result, the population is getting older, poorer and more dependent on others for their care.

 

This is a problem for a country like South Korea or Italy in the present. And in Australia, it will be a problem in the near future. Someone will have to care for the ageing population. The question of who and how will be of increasing policy importance.

 

Why is fertility declining? So, why aren’t women having more babies? There are a few answers: 1. Women are better educated now than ever. Women’s education has been rising steadily for decades, with Australian women now better educated than men. Australia has some of the most educated women in the world.

 

Education delays fertility for multiple reasons. First, it pushes out the age of first birth since women spend longer in school. Second, it gives women more resources they want to trade on the market after finishing a degree.

 

Simply, women are often not having babies in their teens and early 20s because they are pursuing education and launching careers.

 

2. Young people are being delayed in, well, everything. It is much harder for young people to achieve the traditional markers of adulthood – stable jobs and buying a first home. Often, these factors are identified as critical to having a first child. So, many young people are delaying fertility due to economic and housing insecurity.

 

Further, we now have safe and effective contraception, which means sex outside of marriage is feasible, and sex without procreation can be almost guaranteed. All of this means parenthood is delayed. Women are having babies later, and fewer of them.

 

3. Children are expensive and time-consuming. In many industrialised nations, the cost of children is astronomical. Average childcare costs in Australia have outpaced inflation. School tuitions, even for public schools, absorb a significant portion of parents’ budgets.

 

If you multiply this by more children, the costs go up. Intensive parenting norms, which guide how many people parent, emphasise significant time investments in one-on-one children. Simply, we spend more time interacting with our children intensely than previous generations.

 

This is on top of the greater time spent in paid employment. So, according to current social norms, to do parenting “right” means to be deeply invested in our children in terms of time, energy, and resources, including money.

 

4. Workplaces and policies are slow to adapt to supporting caregiving. Our workplaces still expect significant face-to-face time at work and long hours. Although the pandemic ushered in more remote work, many workplaces are rolling back this provision and mandating people return to work in some capacity. This is despite Australians highly valuing access to remote and flexible work, in part because they spend less time commuting and report significantly higher levels of burnout.

 

A nuanced approach is needed. Because the reasons behind declining fertility are not simple, the solutions can’t be simple either. Offering baby bonuses, as Australia and other nations have done, is pretty ineffective because it doesn’t address the complexity of these interlocking issues.

 

If we are serious about supporting care, we need better career and housing pathways for young people, more investment in child and aged care infrastructure, technological innovations to support an ageing population, and workplaces designed with care at the core. This will create a culture of care that supports mothers, fathers, children, and families alike. 

 

This article first appeared in The Conversation



Related News
Extreme temperatures, both low and high, and greater changes over the course of the day -- driven by climate change -- were shown to have an impact on brain diseases, explained lead researcher Sanjay Sisodiya from the University of College London's Institute of Neurology, UK.

Climate change likely to impact people with brain conditions, study finds

May 17, 2024, 08:57 PM - 3 mins read

What’s the difference between ADD and ADHD?

What’s the difference between ADD and ADHD?

April 23, 2024, 10:58 PM - 4 mins read

https://www.instagram.com/thelaughclubofficial/
https://www.instagram.com/burraahhh_/

Lifestyle

See All
Extreme temperatures, both low and high, and greater changes over the course of the day -- driven by climate change -- were shown to have an impact on brain diseases, explained lead researcher Sanjay Sisodiya from the University of College London's Institute of Neurology, UK.

Climate change likely to impact people with brain conditions, study finds

May 17, 2024, 08:57 PM - 3 mins read

Extreme temperatures, both low and high, and greater changes over the course of the day -- driven by climate change -- were shown to have an impact on brain diseases, explained lead researcher Sanjay Sisodiya from the University of College London's Institute of Neurology, UK.

Read more
A woman holds a cold water bottle against her face amid the ongoing heatwave, April heatwave in South Asia made 45 times more likely by climate crisis: Scientists

April heatwave in South Asia made 45 times more likely by climate crisis: Scientists

May 14, 2024, 07:16 PM - 4 mins read

Similar heatwaves could occur once every 30 years and they have already become about 45 times more likely due to climate change, leading climate scientists said on Wednesday, citing historical weather data.

Read more
Conflict in a relationship and high stress levels are other areas of concern, EAP service provider report reveals.

More women than men seek counselling at work, self-development main focus: Report

May 13, 2024, 07:17 AM - 2 mins read

Conflict in a relationship and high stress levels are other areas of concern, EAP service provider report reveals

Read more
Representative Image.

Japan's 'Friendship Marriage' is a new relationship trend defying traditional norms

May 11, 2024, 02:38 AM - 3 mins read

While legally married, these couples may or may not live together and may opt to have children through artificial insemination. 

Read more
No sugar for infants, focus on veggies, fish, poultry, pulses: new dietary guidelines

No sugar for infants, focus on veggies, fish, poultry, pulses: new dietary guidelines

May 9, 2024, 07:51 PM - 3 mins read

Due to the limited availability and high cost of pulses and meat, a significant proportion of the Indian population relies heavily on cereals, resulting in poor intake of essential macronutrients (essential amino acids and essential fatty acids) and micronutrients.

Read more
Ecological grief: How to prioritise mental wellness for environmental champions

Ecological grief: How to prioritise mental wellness for environmental champions

May 8, 2024, 09:35 PM - 7 mins read

We feel ecological grief when we lose places, species or ecosystems we value and love. These losses are a growing threat to mental health and wellbeing globally.

Read more
There is growing evidence that sedentary children are likely to have health problems and it 'needs to be taken seriously'.

Childhood sedentary life could be associated with heart enlargement, study reveals

May 8, 2024, 03:18 AM - 3 mins read

There is growing evidence that sedentary children are likely to have health problems and it 'needs to be taken seriously'.

Read more
What is Thrombosis – a side effect of AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine

What is Thrombosis – a side effect of AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine

April 29, 2024, 11:38 PM - 4 mins read

Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off India’s mass Covid-19 vaccination drive with two vaccines - Serum Institute of India’s (SII) Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s homegrown vaccine Covaxin - which were approved by the country's drugs regulator earlier in January 2021.

Read more
Beauty enthusiasts across India have reason to rejoice as Kylie Cosmetics, the renowned beauty empire founded by Kylie Jenner, has officially made its entry into the Indian market.

Kylie Jenner's beauty empire makes a debut in India with Sephora launch

April 26, 2024, 05:04 AM - 2 mins read

In collaboration with House of Beauty, a leading beauty specialty company known for introducing coveted international beauty brands to India, Kylie Cosmetics has revealed its exclusive collection at Sephora India stores nationwide and on all it's online stores.

Read more
What’s the difference between ADD and ADHD?

What’s the difference between ADD and ADHD?

April 23, 2024, 10:58 PM - 4 mins read

In short, what was previously called ADD is now known as ADHD. So how did we get here? Let’s start with some history.

Read more
Bengaluru's insect cafés: A haven for bees, wasps, ants and beetles

Bengaluru's insect cafés: A haven for bees, wasps, ants and beetles

April 22, 2024, 09:52 PM - 3 mins read

These cafes or hotels are but a tiny step towards insect conservation, augmentation and enrichment, said Ramegowda.

Read more

TOP CATEGORIES

  • Nation

QUICK LINKS

About us Rss FeedSitemapPrivacy PolicyTerms & Condition
logo

2024 News Arena India Pvt Ltd | All rights reserved | The Ideaz Factory