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A pregnant woman in Helsinki on 31 July 2018. The total fertility rate is expected to continue to fall in Finland, with preliminary statistics showing that the number of births dropped by over 2,000 year-on-year between January and September. (Credit: Emmi Korhonen – Lehtikuva)
A pregnant woman in Helsinki on 31 July 2018. The total fertility rate is expected to continue to fall in Finland, with preliminary statistics showing that the number of births dropped by over 2,000 year-on-year between January and September. (Credit: Emmi Korhonen – Lehtikuva)

 

The total fertility rate is set to continue its decline in Finland.

Statistics Finland has reported that the fertility rate fell to an all-time low of 1.49 children per woman last year as the number of births dropped to 50,321, its lowest level since the third and last year of the famine of 1866–1868, when the country had a population of no more than 1.75 million. 

The drop was hardly an anomaly, as the total fertility rate has now decreased for seven consecutive years. Statistics Finland has also reported that the rate is likely decrease further this year, with its preliminary data showing that the number of births fell by 2,039 year-on-year between January and September.

The trend is unusual particularly as typically the fertility rate increases after a country has emerged out of recession, highlights Venla Berg, a researcher at Family Federation of Finland and the Institute of Molecular Medicine (FIMM) at the University of Helsinki.

“One factor that reduces the fertility rate is an economic depression. It’s a widely recognised factor in the field of demography that bleak economic and employment outlook cause people to postpone having children,” she explains.

“But now the start of an upswing hasn’t pushed up the fertility rate.”

The total fertility rate crept up unusually also during the recession of the 1990s in Finland. Berg says the increase was attributable to the introduction of new family benefits, such as the child home care allowance and subjective daycare right, in the late 1980s.

“Having children and staying at home became a sensible alternative to unemployment. More families had their second or third child at the time, but fewer families had their first child. Families with children in a way had their next child earlier,” she explains.

The most recent economic downturn contrastively also resulted in a decline in the number of families having their second or third child, albeit one not as sharp as that in the number of families having their first child.

“That’s the primary reason for the declining fertility rate: people are postponing having their first child,” summarises Berg.

“The time people spend in a relationship has increased. The age at which people have their first serious relationship hasn’t changed in recent decades: Finns typically move together with their partner for the first time at around 25. Still, the age at which people have their first child has increased rapidly, meaning the time spent in a relationship before having children has lengthened.”

Living alone has similarly become more common, with single-person households currently accounting for 45 per cent of the households of 25–34-year-old Finns.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Source: Uusi Suomi

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