Sunday, June 10, 2007

Fertility News

In the last week or so there has been a certain amount of "news" in the press realing to fertility and TFRs in three countries: Germany, Japan, and the UK.

First of Germany. On June 5 the Federal Statistical Office published the following:

As previously reported by the Federal Statistical Office, provisional results for 2006 show decreasing numbers of births and deaths in Germany. The population, too, decreased slightly in that period.
In 2006, 673,000 live births were registered, that was 13,000 or 1.9% less than in 2005. The number of births has been declining since 1991, with the exception of 1996 and 1997. The number of deaths had fallen continuously from 1994 to 2001, before it increased in 2002, 2003 and 2005. In 2006, there were 822,000 deaths, which was a decrease by 8,000 or 1% on the previous year. This means that in 2006, there was an excess of deaths over births of about 149,000. In the previous year, the deficit of births was by about 5,000 persons smaller. On 31 December 2006, Germany had about 82,315,000 inhabitants. That was 123,000 or 0.1% less than at the end of 2005 (82,438,000).

Perhaps the most striking feature here is the decline in the absolute number of live births, this is known as the population momentum effect which operates as generations become smaller. Such is this effect now in Germany that the sheer wait of the numbers decline is likely to completely overwhelm any small increase we may see in the level of the TFR as birth recovery takes place among older women.

and remember, migration is roughly 0% now in Germany, with people leaving as fast as they are arriving.

Meanwhile earlier last week the Japanese Health Ministry revealed that the recorded TFR in Japan has rose slightly - to 1.32 babies per woman - in 2006, which up from the record low ever of 1.26 recorded in 2005.

Japan's fertility rate rose last year for the first time in six years in 2006, while the number of suicides fell below the 30,000-case mark for the first time in four, the government said Wednesday.

``The latest figure alone doesn't indicate whether there is a turnaround in the country's recent trend of falling number of births,'' said Emi Sato of the vital statistic division with the Health Ministry.

Japan's fertility rate was 1.33 in 2001, 1.32 in 2002 and 1.29 in both 2003 and 2004 - the lowest figure since the government began releasing fertility rate data in 1947, according to the ministry.

Last year, the number of births in Japan totaled 1,092,662, exceeding the number of deaths by just 8,174, the report showed. Marriages in Japan totaled 730,973 last year, up 16,708, while divorces totaled 257,484 people, down 4,433.

But before everyone starts jumping up and down with joy it should be noted that the increase is very small and that the Health Ministry itself is warning that it may well be in part a statistical construct, with the rate possibly dropping slightly again in 2008.

For those interested in a fuller assessment of the longer term fertility situation in Japan, this article by Toru Suzuki in the March 2006 edition of the Japanese Journal of Population makes a good read:

Fertility Decline and Policy Development in Japan

As Suzuki notes:

The Japanese government was shocked with the TFR of 1.57 in 1989 and launched a variety ofpronatal policy measures.

As he also goes on to suggest the Completed Cohort Fertility Rate (CFR) is a more accurate measure of fertility than the TFR, because the latter suffers from tempo distortion and the so-called "parity composition" effect (for an explanation of some of this we have this post on-site).

And he is none too optimistic that CFRs are going to rebound all that significantly (ie anywhere near replacement) in Japan even in the medium term:

Although the 1955 cohort was behind its predecessor in the early twenties, it succeeded in catch up and will fulfill a near replacement level. However, a significant decline in the CFR for cohorts born after 1960 seems to be inevitable. The cumulative fertility of the 1960 cohort is 1.84 at age 43 and will not reach 1.9 eventually. Though it is difficult to predict the CFR for cohorts born after 1965, the postponement in the early twenties seems too serious to be compensated later. Thus, the CFR of younger cohorts in Japan can be as low as 1.6, which is predicted for Italian cohorts.

Finally, some rather better news from the UK: fertility hits a 26 year high, and the Guardian has this interesting article examining some of the reasons for the rebound:

Women are choosing to have more babies than at any time since 1980, according to official figures which hint at the first baby boom of the 21st century. The fertility rate - the number of births per woman - rose from 1.8 babies per woman in 2005 to 1.87 in 2006, the fifth annual rise in a row and the most babies born in a single year since 1993, the Office for National Statistics said.

The 26-year high in the fertility rate suggests a new baby boom, but is still tens of thousands of children short of matching the post-war baby boomer years. Economists welcomed the news, saying that low birth rates are storing problems for the future when there will be too few taxpayers to support an ageing population, while fertility experts warned that women are risking infertility by having babies later.

The figures suggest that older mothers and migrant families are increasingly making up for younger British-born women choosing to have fewer babies. Keith Spicer, the ONS statistician behind the figures, said: "It's the largest numbers of live births since 1993 and fertility is at its highest in 26 years. The story really is the older mother and the country of the mother's birth."

So while it may be rather exaggerated to talk about a "baby boom" there is a clear and sustained rising in ongoing fertility due to a combination of two factors: birth recovery (that is the older mum factor) and a slighly higher birthrate from migrants.

So good news for the UK, and a stark contrast with the ongoing and largely un-addressed problems which exist in Japan and Germany.


Brendan said...

Great news for the UK, their scouring of the Third World to find poor, backward, oppressed women still "willing" to have more than a few babies has paid off. Great job.

Scott said...

Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe there has never been any official policy in Japan or Germany regarding the number of children a couple can/should have. If that is the case, it is interesting that these three countries would now have similar TFR's in spite of their policy differences.

MarcZ said...

Doesn't it seem strange that the "good news" in Britain is that the natives are beginning to be replaced? I mean, really. Surely the age structure of a population matters, but I can't feel that the answer to a country's low fertility rate is just to import more prolific breeders from abroad to replace the natives.

georges said...

Bosnia Herzegovina, Fiji, Kosovo and Northern Ireland - are these showing the future for the UK?

Anonymous said...

It's great news for those who seek an Islamic UK. There is a practice in place whereby young people of Pakistani, Bangladeshi, or Indian Muslim origin are married not to people within their own communities, but to imported brides and grooms.

So, instead of two younger Brits of Pakistani origin marrying and having, say, two children, they are each married to an individual from the old country, who then migrate to the UK. In this way, you have 2 couples producing 4 children instead of 1 producing 2. This creates an important multiplier effect which may have been overlooked.

This strategy, which is present in other European countries and is sometimes known as "fetching", serves an important anti-integrationist purpose. That is, it ensures that each successive generation of offspring has a direct cultural, linguistic, and (most important) religious link to the country of origin through one parent.

This practice is one of the principal reasons why European Muslim immigrants have failed to fully integrate. It's by design.

Edward Hugh said...

Well this debate about the supposed "Islamisation" of Europe is by now rather old, and rather tiresome, especially since it doesn't seem to bear any relation to known facts.

Randy has covered some of the relevant ground in two excellent posts. This one on the situation in France, and this one on Russia. Among other factors the discourse doesn't seem to bear any relation to the known facts. Even scimming the Guardian article linked-to above gives some indication of this. The majority of the migration into the UK in recent years has come from Eastern Europe, and of course the increase in live births that is being registered reflects this:

But the bigger increase was among mothers born outside the UK. There was a 10% increase in babies born to migrant mothers to nearly 150,000 in 2006. Of nearly 13,000 extra babies born to these mothers, 5,800 were from elsewhere in Europe, reflecting recent increases in immigration from EU member states. Another 3,500 were from the traditional immigrant countries in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean.

Of course - as in most modern societies - the proportion of children born to parents who are descendants of migrants steadily rises, and maybe some people have problems with this, although perhaps not so many when it comes to the moment of claiming their pensions. The important point which Randy draws attention to is the underlying secularisation process which occurs.

Interestingly this week the figures for inward migration to Spain for 2006 were released, and surprisingly (perhaps, for some), there were only 13,000 migrants from Morocco, as compared with over 100,000 from Romania. Thus - and as forecast in this post - migration out of Morocco is now more or less done as fertility in Morocco steadily falls towards replacement level and the country starts to develop. Same case Turkey, despite all the preoccupations inside the EU about what might happen when Turkey becomes a member.

As fertility steadily declines across the third world the differential between migrant and indigenous fertility will steadily fall.


"I believe there has never been any official policy in Japan or Germany regarding the number of children a couple can/should have."

I take it that what you mean is that these countries have never practiced explicitly pro-natalist policies, and in this you would be right.

Of course, as awareness of the problems that this continuing low fertility presents grows, we are now seeing various kinds of tokenism, but as we have discussed on many occasions here, tokenism in this case just doesn't have any meaningful impact.

The two countries you mention are unusual among G7 type countries for the very low level to which their fertility fell. They have now of course been joined by a large quantity of additional recently developed countries (like Southern Europe, the Asian Tigers, Eastern Europe, and possibly a lot more to come).

In the case of Germany and Japan there may be good reason to think that some kind of fertility trap - of the kind we have been discussing - may now be operating. If this is the case it will be very difficult for them to shift fertility back up again. This is very different from the case of eg France, Sweden, the UK or the US. Since each of these has had very different approaches to the fertility issue it is still hard to see what can be learned here.

Looking around the low fertility countries I am struck by some similarities which I see between four of them: Germany, Japan, Italy and Poland. All four of these have very low fertility, and all four of them are characterised by having had very conservative attitudes to family values, values which are then increasingly out of harmony with the aspirations of the newer generations of young women.

Three of these countries are now suffering from protracted economic problems which only seem to contribute to sustaining the low fertility, while the fourth - Poland - is currently growing rapidly, but given the massive outflow of young people which has recently taken place, would seem - as I have argued in recent posts - to face imminent capacity problems which may well put a break on growth. As and when this takes place it will indeed be interesting to see what happens next.

A few years back I would have included Spain in this list, but Spain - with a population increase of 5 million people on a base of some 40 million in only 6 years, now seems to have set itself on a different course. Naturally this will also bear following closely.

colin reid said...

Has anyone tried to make a broad overview of what European demographics might look like by say 2050? Anything more than about 20 years in the future would be a lot of guesswork of course, but it'd be interesting to see what scenarios people come up with.

One thing I notice is that Europe's demographic centre of balance seems to be marching fairly uniformly westwards:

- Spain and Ireland have massive population growth due to immigration, and Britain, Ireland and France are doing relatively well by European standards in both fertility levels and net immigration rates.

- Germany and Italy are ageing and shrinking, and suffering a serious 'brain drain', but are also getting considerable numbers of migrants from further east or south.

- The Lynxes and the Balkans are seeing high levels of emigration and low fertility. Same goes for the remaining tranche of countries between them and Russia, only more so.

- Russia still has some net immigration, but has appalling mortality among the young and middle-aged, and not much fertility either. As a result its population is in freefall, with more than 3 deaths for every 2 births.

Turkey is something of an exception to this picture of course, as it still has considerable demographic momentum. But how long will this continue, and could Turkey soon be a victim of 'overshoot', Italian-style?

Scott said...

Colin, take a look at's 2006 World Population Data Sheet.. I think you will find that this is exactly what you are looking for, as far as a quantitative analysis goes.

CV said...


... as you say Colin, 2050 is clearly anybody's guess but it is of course an important point anyway.

On European demographics and the shift westwards this recent special report in the Economist is nice . ..

A comprehensive account I think of diverging trends in European demographics. Edward will be doing something on AFOE I think and perhaps afterwards I will stick up a brief pointer here at DM or over at my own blog.

georges said...

edward hugh -

There's a super simple way to confirm or refute Randy's claim that immigrants of Muslim cultural origin are gradually becoming more secular. Look at Mosque construction. If Muslims are lapsing there will be a falling demand for Mosques. Fewer new Mosques will be built, and some of the existing ones will be closed down and sold off. If he's wrong, there will be a growth in Mosque construction. Does anyone have any figures?

Edward Hugh said...

Hi Georges,

"There's a super simple way to confirm or refute Randy's claim that immigrants of Muslim cultural origin are gradually becoming more secular. Look at Mosque construction."

Well, regardless of whether Randy's thesis is right or wrong, I'm not sure that your proposal constitutes the kind of test you suggest. The reason is basically because the stock of mosques in Europe starts from a historically very low level, so having more mosques built is perfectly compatible with having a lower level of religiosity in muslim communities.

"If Muslims are lapsing there will be a falling demand for Mosques. Fewer new Mosques will be built, and some of the existing ones will be closed down and sold off. If he's wrong, there will be a growth in Mosque construction. Does anyone have any figures?"

This kind of proposal would work over a time horizon which stretches out say 50 years into the future. What Randy's thesis would seem to predict would be that as the number of first generation muslim migrants rises, and they become richer, the number of mosques built should increase.

As the stock of first generation migrants peaks, and with a certain time lag due to the wealth effect, mosque construction should peak and then enter decline as the absolute size of the second and third generations comes to dominate.

This will involve a very long term longitudinal project, if anyone is interested in testing in this way.

In the meantime there may be a rather more "super-simple" research possibility: in depth qualitative research into longer established muslim communities looking at levels of religiosity between the first and the third generations. Anyone got any references.

georges said...

Hi edward hugh -

Is this the kind of information you're looking for?

Or this"

Most such surveys I have seen confirm this trend - that young UK Muslims are MORE likely to want Sharia Law, the veiling of women etc than their parents. The Hanif Kureshi short story "My Son The Fanatic" highlighted the phenomenon some time ago.

colin reid said...

@georges: Young people tend to have more radical views than old people. It's also the case that every generation appears vastly more violent than the last, if you compare 50-year-olds of one generation with 20-year-olds of the next. It doesn't mean the end is nigh.

To see what's happening from one generation to the next, we really need to compare the attitudes of each generation at a particular age. Are there any good data on what todays 50-something British Muslims believed in the 1970s?

georges said...

By "radical" do you mean forward-progressive - left wing, even? These young Muslims seem to be choosing ultraconservatism - Sharia, veiling, homophobia, the caliphate. The most reactionary high church Tory in Britain feels like Daniel Cohn-Bendit in comparison.

I realize it's wrong to generalize from one example, but Kureishi's father was the model for the character Haroon Amir in "The Buddha Of Suburbia". He wears his Islam very lightly, preferring faux Buddhism and hedonism to Islamic piety.

Radicals of an earlier generation of Muslim immigrants would include Atheists like Tariq Ali. Ali could easily have chosen the lifestyle young British Muslims are now chosing. He rejected it because he was a left wing radical.

Randy said...


"Look at Mosque construction. If Muslims are lapsing there will be a falling demand for Mosques. Fewer new Mosques will be built, and some of the existing ones will be closed down and sold off. If he's wrong, there will be a growth in Mosque construction."

Not necessarily. As Edward pointed out, there were very few mosques in Europe starting out. Further, assuming continued growth through immigration from multiple sources, as communities grow in size subcommunities which once lacked the critical mass for their own institutions--Alevis, say, or Shi'a--will develop their own community institutions.