Britain’s fertility rate has fallen to historically low levels due to lockdowns, according to a new study, creating fears of a Covid “baby bust”. Southampton University’s Centre for Population Change warns that up to 66,000 fewer children could be born in the UK by 2023. The Telegraph has the story.
Britain’s fertility rate is believed to have plummeted to the lowest level on record in the pandemic, surpassing its previous nadir in 2001 before a wave of immigration from the EU.
The findings, set out in a new study by Southampton University’s Centre for Population Change, also warn up to 66,000 fewer children could be born across the UK by 2023, fuelling fears of a Covid “baby bust”.
The population experts suggest the fertility rate in England and Wales fell to an all-time low of 1.6 children per woman in 2020, below even the 1.63 seen at the turn of the century before arrivals from the European Union’s new member states increased the birth rate.
Under the report’s worst-case scenario, the rate drops to just 1.45 by 2023 as the impact of Covid worsens the existing pattern of falling fertility.
The report considers a range of lockdown-related factors behind this decline, including the worry of financial instability caused by job losses, and the postponement of weddings.
Researchers studying the impact of a year of lockdown and social restrictions modelled four scenarios for births over the next three years and warned that the pandemic will “depress fertility, particularly among young people”.
The CRC weighed up a range of factors from more young people living with parents and barred from socialising since last March, to the impact of some 200,000 postponed weddings, stress of home schooling for existing parents, as well as the fear of potential job losses due to economic uncertainty.
The study said: “Because fertility at all ages was declining before the onset of the pandemic, this could mean a further decline in fertility to historically low levels for the UK.
“Our projections show that for three scenarios out of four fertility is expected to decline over the next three years leading to significantly fewer births annually compared to the pre-pandemic period.”
Births only increase under one of the four scenarios – the most optimistic – where parents in their thirties opt for more children after lockdown(s).
Worth reading in full.