Where have all the British babies gone?

Where have all the British babies gone?

 We’ve talked a lot about deaths recently, says Ed Conway, but it’s time we also gave some thought to births – and why there are so few. A decade or so ago, Britain had “one of the most favourable demographic fundamentals in Europe”. In 2012, the fertility rate of England and Wales (the average number of children born per woman) was 1.9 – below the replacement level of 2.1 and a shade less than France, but “comfortably higher” than the rate in Italy and Germany (both 1.4). Combined with our liberal immigration policies, there was little prospect of our population shrinking. But since then the fertility rate has plunged. It stood at 1.65 in 2019; provisional figures suggest it’s now 1.6 – “the lowest figure since comparable records began in 1938”. The immigration picture is also very different: new research suggests over a million overseas workers might have left Britain last year. It’s a trend that signals a huge demographic shift, and its impact – on our welfare system, on the cost of labour, on inflation – will be profound.

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