The impact of the declining fertility rate

by Apr 18, 2024

The impact of the declining fertility rate

The declining fertility rate will be significant both culturally and economically

 

For the first time in history, women and couples are choosing not to have children. By the end of the century, the global fertility rate is expected to be 1.9 births per woman by 2100 according to research from Pew.  

In South Korea’s the fertility rate sank to a record low this year despite $270bn in incentives. The average number of births per woman has fallen to 0.72 in a country with the world’s lowest rate and has spent billions since 2006 to reverse the trend.

Japan have recently introduced a YEN 420K baby bonus to tackle this challenging cultural shift.

Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis said that the country effectively recorded just one birth per two deaths in 2022. They are talking about “population collapse.”

We will for sure see an increase in pro-natalist policies, think-tank speak for getting women and couples to have more babies, or what  French President  Emmanuel Macron calls “demographic rearmament,” which is quite alarming.

Women it would seem are taking charge of one of the few things they still have control of. Their wombs. This is why many organisations on the far right want to take that away from us.

Reasons for reduced fertility rate

When I ran the roundtable in Paris for Unleash on “Parenting: an HR issue” in October 2023 the reasons participants gave for not wanting to have children were varied. However, there were some consistent themes:

  1. Finding the right partner:  whatever that means to different people. Many women are choosing to stay single. Some have even stopped dating.
  2. Managing work and family too difficult: Women don’t want to do it all and organisations aren’t doing enough to support families.
  3. Financial: participants felt they couldn’t afford an extra person in the household, in terms of covering basic living expenses. They also couldn’t accommodate the necessary escalating childcare fees, or the cost of buying/renting a bigger house or apartment.
  4. Work-life balance: they didn’t want to make childcare the focus of their lives. This came from men and women equally.
  5. Accidental infertility: there was also a group who had wanted to have children when they were in their 20s, but when they wanted to start a family “it just didn’t happen.” They decided that the cost and hassle both emotionally and physically of IVF was something they didn’t want to go through.

 

Impact of declining fertility rate

The continued decline in the fertility rate will be significant both culturally and economically:

1. Ageing Population

One of the most immediate impacts of declining fertility rates is an ageing population. With fewer births, the proportion of elderly people increases relative to the working-age population. The dependency ratio, which measures the number of dependents (children and elderly) relative to the working-age population,  also increases with declining fertility rates. This places a greater burden on the working-age population to support dependents, potentially leading to increased taxes or decreased social services.

2. Reduced working population

A declining fertility rate will lead to a shrinking workforce, impacting economic growth as fewer people actively contribute to the economy via taxes and productivity. This will almost certainly result in labour and skill set shortages in certain sectors, which could cause wage inflation increasing business overheads which will be passed onto the consumer. We are already seeing that with Japan and Germany relaxing immigration requirements for specific skills.

3. Increase in pressure on healthcare systems

An ageing population typically requires more healthcare services, which strains systems and increases costs. We are already starting to see calls for involuntary euthanasia of the very elderly or terminally ill.

4. Challenges to Pension Systems

With fewer workers contributing to pension systems and more retirees drawing benefits, pension systems may face financial challenges. Governments may need to rethink pension systems to ensure their sustainability in the face of multiple challenges.

5. Cultural and social changes

Declining fertility rates can lead to changes in family structure and dynamics. As families become smaller, and we see an increase in the number of childless couples, we will surely encounter shifts in social norms and expectations surrounding family life.

This will include shifts in attitudes towards marriage, parenthood, and gender roles. It can also influence cultural perceptions of ageing and intergenerational relationships.

6. Impact on Housing and Urban Planning

With smaller family sizes, there will be changes in housing demand and urban planning. There may be less demand for large-family homes and increased demand for smaller units of accommodation. This will also impact infrastructure planning and public services.

Upsides

One upside to a declining fertility rate will be positive environmental benefits in terms of reducing pressure on natural resources and mitigating environmental degradation associated with population growth.

Egg freezing

Managing a job and motherhood is a pervasive challenge for many women and couples.  One option is to consider Egg Freezing. New fertility preservation approaches such as egg freezing are offering potential societal breakthroughs by allowing women to disconnect themselves from their biological clock. Now they can freeze their eggs at a younger age and delay motherhood to a time of their choice.

Numerous media reports indicate that the process is not straightforward.  It is prohibitively expensive for many and the results are not guaranteed. Data also shows that many women who froze their eggs over the last decade have not yet returned to use them.  Some narratives suggest that the fertility industry is taking advantage of vulnerable women and misspelling the procedure on the promise of having it all.

3Plus has supported the mission of Egg Advisor from its inception. Their objective is to facilitate women in making clear and informed choices.  By providing independent information and emotional support the goal is to shine a light on the outcomes and empower women in their fertility preservation journey.

The Egg Advisor platform is in its development stages but they invite you to use their tools for FREE and provide feedback. 3Plus urges you to take advantage of this great opportunity.  If you are interested Egg Advisor offers support and advice whether you are considering egg freezing,  or have unused frozen eggs.

Find out more at www.eggadvisor.com or email hello@eggadvisor.com to arrange a 121 appointment with an independent Egg Advisor or Egg Therapist.

Action needed

To stop the decline in fertility levels, governments and organisations need to work together to make it attractive for couples to have children. This could be with baby bonuses, family allowance incentives, and flexible working arrangements.  They also need easily accessible and subsidised childcare, the provision of affordable housing, as well as fertility testing plus egg and sperm freezing opportunities.

 

It’s complicated and not just an HR issue – it’s a leadership issue.

 

 

 

 

Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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