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Births fell in 2023 to reach a new historical low

2024-02-21T19:14:51.754Z

Highlights: Births fell in 2023 to reach a new historical low. The 322,075 newborns last year, a still provisional figure, represent a drop of 24% in the last 10 years. The drop is 24.4% compared to 2014, 10 years ago. Demographers point to two factors. The first, pure demographic inertia: there are fewer generations of childbearing age. The second, the decision to have children is increasingly delayed, and fewer and fewer children are being had.


The 322,075 newborns last year, a still provisional figure, represent a drop of 24% in the last 10 years


Fewer and fewer children are being born in Spain.

The 322,075 births in 2023 confirm a trend that has been seen for years.

The data, published this Wednesday by the National Institute of Statistics (INE), are still provisional, but if confirmed, they would represent the lowest number of births since the INE's historical series began in 1941. And it would already be the fifth consecutive year in which a minimum is recorded.

The 2023 figures can be fully compared with data from the last decade.

The drop is 24.4% compared to 2014, 10 years ago.

Demographers point to two factors.

The first, pure demographic inertia: there are fewer generations of childbearing age.

The second, the decision to have children is increasingly delayed, and fewer and fewer children are being had.

But in 2023, not only the number of newborns fell, but also the number of deaths, up to 435,331.

It did so by 5.8% compared to 2022. Despite this decrease in deaths, last year was the seventh consecutive year in which more deaths than births were recorded in Spain, a difference of 113,256 people.

This is what is known as negative vegetative balance.

To calculate this figure, the data from two statistics are crossed, the Monthly Estimate of Births and the Estimated Weekly Number of Deaths.

Both provide provisional data, but they allow us to draw the first X-ray of births and deaths in 2023. That is, the growth that Spain has recorded in recent years is due to immigration: last year, the population increased by more than half a million. people, until reaching the maximum of 48.6 million inhabitants.

The INE explains that the figures published this Wednesday are provisional in nature, they draw on the registrations in the computerized Civil Registries and those born to Spanish mothers abroad still need to be included in them.

So it is possible that they will experience some variation in the coming months.

But the trend is clear.

The experts allude to a numerical issue.

“The fact of having a very low fertility sustained over time implies that the [population] cohorts are increasingly smaller, there are fewer and fewer women of reproductive age who can have children,” explains Teresa Martín, researcher at the Higher Council of Scientific Research (CSIC).

“In addition, we have a fertility rate [number of children per woman] among the lowest and latest in the world.

We are one of the countries with the least number of children, and also where we have them later.

It is not something temporary and it is surely not something transitory,” she points out.

Older mothers with fewer children

In Spain, in 1975 there were 2.77 children per woman and, on average, the first baby arrived at 25.25 years of age.

In 2022, the last year for which these data exist, 1.16 children were had per woman and the first, on average, reached 31.6.

It is very illuminating to look specifically at the data of mothers who have already turned 40. According to INE data, one in 10 newborns last year in Spain had a mother in this age group.

A figure that has grown by 19.3% since 2013. And, if in 1994 the births of mothers under 25 multiplied by more than nine those of women who had already turned 40, now the figures have been reversed.

The group of older mothers is larger than that of those under 25.

“We have had less than 1.5 children per woman for more than three decades,” explains Martín, who sees it likely that, if expectations are met, the figure will continue to decline.

But she, like all the experts consulted for this article, emphasize that fertility does not only fall in Spain.

“We are not an exception.

Half of the countries in the world are below what we call the level of generational replacement, which would be 2.1 children per woman, and in 2050 it will be two thirds,” she continues.

"What is anomalous in the Spanish case is that this fertility is especially low, and this differentiates it from other States on the European continent, where there are countries in the center, west or north with moderately low fertility, and others, in the east or south, where it is very low,” he continues.

So it is worth asking why the country is at the bottom of the Union, where the average in 2021 was 1.53 children per woman.

Given that the number of desired children in Europe is around two, according to Martín, “Spain is one of the places where the gap between desired and achieved fertility is greatest” and “this means that there are greater obstacles here.” that make family projects difficult.”

Albert Esteve, director of the Center for Demographic Studies and professor of the Department of Sociology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, ​​points to the delay in the age at which children are born: “It comes from the need that people have to train, to become in the labor market, to form a couple, to have a stable home.

The conditions for being mothers and fathers vary over time, we set our level of demand for them.

Many certainties for being mothers and fathers are harvested at older ages.”

So, as Esteve details, “there are factors that play in several directions.”

“One, more cultural: the change in expectations, which makes a person at 25 no longer consider being a father or mother.

But after a certain age the problems tend to be of a different order: either they do not have a partner, or the economic conditions to carry out this project do not exist, nor job security, nor access to housing.

And from a certain age, especially in women, it is difficult to conceive.”

In 2022, young Europeans left the family home, on average, at 26.4 years old.

In Finland they were the most advanced, with 21.3 years;

Spain is one of the countries at the bottom, here it was 10 years later, at 30.3.

“We have had very low fertility for 30 years, but it has not been noticed until now in the number of births because before there were larger generations having children,” says Esteve.

For this reason, this expert believes it is likely that in the coming years minimum births will continue to be recorded in the INE's historical series.

The demographer also indicates that to the factors already mentioned, it is added that youth is lengthening, people want to fulfill themselves in other ways before having children.

“In the end, reproductive decisions are increasingly focused on a much shorter age window.”

And the “big obstacle” is the first child.

It is delayed, sometimes, to the point where it is biologically impossible to have it.

Or, if you have it, it is very difficult to get to the second one.

So Esteve demands that as soon as the decision to seek pregnancy is made, the conditions are in place to make it possible.

It asks that policies be “concentrated between the ages of 30 and 40”, ages at which “the welfare state” considers that “there is no need to help, but that [conditions] are much more precarious than is thought, especially "all in order to be able to develop a reproductive plan."

The key is not to waste “reproductive potential.”

45% of women aged 50 or over who have not had children would have liked to have them, according to the 2018 Fertility Survey.

Diederik Boerdien, researcher at the Center for Demographic Studies, also adds other factors that explain these figures.

He highlights the speed at which Spanish society has changed in recent decades when compared to other countries.

“In the 1980s fertility was still higher than the EU average,” he points out.

“Women have been gaining rights, entering the labor market, having careers,” he says.

They have been forming more and more and this has been a great revolution.

Meanwhile, there has not been enough progress in conciliation policies.

To which is added that care continues to be, above all, the responsibility of women.

In Spain, the schooling rate from zero to two years is 45.6% (including public and private) and is located in an intermediate zone of EU countries.

Still far from the Netherlands (69.4%), but also from Italy (26.4%).

“In other countries there are no waiting lists, there is aid,” Boerdien continues.

And he mentions qualitative studies that suggest that people now decide more consciously whether to have children and when to have them.

“It occurs in all [European] countries, but in Spain the sacrifices are greater because there is less aid for conciliation, motherhood and paternity and because the economic conditions are worse.”

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Source: elparis

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