Kindergarteners in winter clothing in Lauttasaari, Helsinki, on 2 January 2024. The share of 20–34-year-old women who have not given birth has risen by eight percentage points to 73 per cent, reveals a survey by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). (Jussi Nukari – Lehtikuva)

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A GROWING NUMBER of under 35-year-old women are childless in Finland, reveals a survey by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

The Healthy Finland survey found that 73 per cent of 20–34-year-old women have not given birth, representing an increase of eight percentage points since 2017. The number of births among over 35-year-old women has contrastively risen, with the share creeping up by two points over the past six years.

Reija Klemetti, a research manager at THL, stated to YLE last week that the phenomenon that people are postponing having children has been visible in statistics for some time. What is interesting, however, is that now the phenomenon is also reflected in population studies.

Almost two-fifths (39%) of under 50-year-old women and 44 per cent of under 50-year-old men reported that they would like to have children in the future. Such wishes were common especially among 20–29-year-old, with 62 per cent of women and 69 per cent of men saying they would like to have children.

Men reported that they would like to have children more often than women across age groups, a finding that may be attributable to long-standing challenges linked to combining work and family, gauged Klemetti.

“Even today women have to think more often than men how even wishing for a child will limit their ability to progress in their career and complete their studies, as well as increase their responsibility for the family. Men can be more confident that their working life will continue in the same way as earlier,” she noted.

Unintended childlessness has been experienced by 16 per cent of women and 11 per cent of men in Finland. Klemetti stated to the public broadcasting company that the shares are comparable to earlier population studies, with one noticeable shift.

“Earlier a larger share of 30–39-year-olds had experienced unintended childlessness. Also that may be connected to the phenomenon of people postponing having children: 30–39-year-olds today don’t have as much experience of unintended childlessness because they didn’t start trying to get pregnant until later,” she explained.

Well over half, or 60 per cent, of people who have experienced unintended childlessness said they have sought infertility examinations and treatments, with roughly half getting children as a result.

Voluntary childlessness, meanwhile, was attributable to factors such as no desire to have children, precarious financial situation or lack of support from society.

The survey also discovered that abortions among young people have decreased. Six per cent of 20–29-year-old women, 12.5 per cent of 30–39-year-old women and 20 per cent of over 40-year-old women said they have experienced at least one abortion.

“Especially young people had fewer experiences of abortions, and that’s also reflected in our statistics. We’ve been able to have an impact on this with sexuality education and counselling,” said Klemetti.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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