Why do you think women worldwide are having fewer babies?

(107 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 12-Aug-11 13:06:44

Hello all

We've been approached by an academic researcher at the Oxford Centre for Research into Parenting and Children who's working on a book called 'No Time For Children'. The book will explore why fertility rates - the number of babies being born per mother - are actually falling the world over, despite a widespread belief to the contrary. 

In China, for example, the worried government is reversing its one-child policy - but many adult 'onelies' now believe that one child is 'about right'. The same is true in Japan and Singapore, and fertility rates are also falling in Africa,  Europe, Latin America and all over Eastern Asia. 

The book will contain chapters written by an impressive roster of academic contributors, but its authors would also like to hear what mothers themselves think is going on, and what, specifically, they consider to be the barriers to having more children. If you'd like to contribute, please do post your thoughts here. 

BelleDameSansMerci Fri 12-Aug-11 13:32:01

My initial thought was 'money'. It's just so expensive in our culture and many others. You've only got to look at the SAHM/WOHM threads (before the buns start flying) to see that any number of us have made 'choices' based on economic necessity. Even more so in the current climate where private childcare costs are going up and state provided/subsidised provision is reducing.

There is also the sad truth that many of us know that, despite all rhetoric to the contrary, our careers will be trashed put on hold (and may never recover) if/when we have children.

I was wondering about the "more choice not to" argument but contraception has been widely available for so long now that I'm not sure it's a valid point.

ColdTruth Fri 12-Aug-11 13:37:51

A combination of factors depending on the type of society, for western societies it is due to women having a greater presence in the workforce and unfortunately that lifestyle is not fully comparable with children. Also a persons income also has affect as people are more likely on the whole to have children depending on how many thy can afford to have.

Other societies may have different reasons CHina for example is a country which has enforced restrictions due to their massive overpopulation problem, so it's no wonder Chinas people would see that it is for the best as they will be living with the effects of overpopulation.

Overall I think it is probably a good thing the world can only support so much. And for many parts of the world we no longer suffer from a higher infant mortality rate which is why people 3rd world countries tend to have so many children that and the lack of contraception which is steadily increasing in use in these communities.

ColdTruth Fri 12-Aug-11 13:38:52

Fully compatible sorry on phone

birdofthenorth Fri 12-Aug-11 13:52:43

Having babies later

Money- lifestyle expectation has increased & cost of having kids continues to increase

Households relying on women's incomes more

More contraceptive choices available

MotherPanda Fri 12-Aug-11 13:56:08

got other things to do?

If it's all over the world then there are still plenty of countries where the answer could be "better access to contraception".

It's only in countries where contraception has been cheap, easily available, and not frowned upon for a while that you need to start looking for other reasons.

Macaroona Fri 12-Aug-11 13:57:49

I think the rise in women having careers is a cause - I'm a feminist and am obviously happy that women have fulfilling careers, however in a household relying on 2 incomes, it's very hard for the woman to be able to give up work to have children. I'm 31 and due my first - I would have loved a big family, but I've also wanted a good career. Unfortunately the two aren't compatible in this country or any other, so I've had to wait until now, when we can afford for my DH to cover the mortgage for a while.

If you're middle-class and intelligent, it's not an acceptable option (or even one worthy of consideration) to start having children early. I think contraception has led to this being an easy choice for both men and women - men can still have sex, but not have to agree to the possible consequence of doing so. This has of course also given women freedom, but has made choosing to have children an increasingly illogical and expensive thing to do. Chatting to friends about it, they would for the most part have had children earlier if their DHs were willing.

But it needs to be recognised that most parents would rather have 2/3 children and not 6 as would have been common in the past when it was an occupation for women.

Suncottage Fri 12-Aug-11 14:03:09

Improved contraception, better education, easier access to birth control.

My parents made the decision to stop at two because of finances. My brother and I were given a very good life, it would have been different had we been one of three, four, five, six children.

Having a choice - marriage and children are not the only career options open to women now and many are choosing to not go down that route.

Women leaving it too late to start a family. I have four friends in this category, they looked up one day and realised that their chance had gone.

I think maybe improved contraception in poorer countries, and the requirement for two salaries in countries that are wealthier. I also think that we shouldn't just be looking at how many babies women have, but what overall fertility is like. Are chemicals, etc. affecting fertility?

Family dynamics have also changed - half-siblings, step-children, elderly parents needing help, children staying longer at home (most of my generation were out the house and earning by 18) all impacts on the choices made.

rumpleteaser Fri 12-Aug-11 14:32:35

Improvements to contraception and availabilty of it provide women of our generations with a choice.
My choice not to have any more is money related. I'd love to have a brother or sister for my ds but to do that I would want to move to a bigger house which isn't possible for us due to finances.

turkeyboots Fri 12-Aug-11 14:37:46

Availability of contracpetion I think. Big families can be hard - financially and in every other way. My grandmother had no access to contraception (Ireland in the 50s) and was pregnant every year from marriage to menopause. None of her 9 living children have more than 3 children.

thinNigella Fri 12-Aug-11 14:42:45

money
time
having more career choices - wanting to have a career
finding it harder to met a partner whilst young enough to have a child
having one child is so very hard and releltnless on top of work and money, you're put off having any more
lack of support from extended family who may not live close by any more

Tortington Fri 12-Aug-11 15:01:12

money and contraception

dont forget the working classes always worked whether they had children or not.
those children also often worked

Surely it is at least partly due to lower deaths in babies and young childrne. In the past women had lots of children because they knew only two or three would make it to adulthood anyway.

That and better contraception, better education for women and work opportunities for women (rather than their only future being to get married and have babies).

EdithWeston Fri 12-Aug-11 15:10:07

Did the researcher provide you with anything easily linkable about how much the rate is dropping (ideally nation by nation), for how long each place has been experiencing falls, and what the actual numbers of births are?

"worldwide" is a bit of a broad category, and I'd be very interested to know what the relative rate of fall is when comparing say US and India (especially given the huge disparity between the lifetime consumption of the world's resources between nations), and if the rate is dropping in China, by how much and over what period (could be very interesting to put this alongside the timelines of the "socialism with Chinese characteristics" and "let some areas get rich" policies).

Thanks

Miggsie Fri 12-Aug-11 15:11:45

Historically there was no contraception, when contraception became available I think there was a huge outcry that "women wouldn't want it" yet the sales of the pill went through the roof, particularly married women.

Women were obliged to have sex with their husband and could not realistically divorce until the last century, coupled with no contraception becoming pregnant multiple times was inevitable.

Medical science used to be rubbish, and knowledge of germs etc was limited so many many children died in infancy or before they reached 18. So if you wanted children to support you in your old age, you had to have quite a few.

Economically, before state pension and benefits a family needed children to work and bring in additional income and also to support their parents in the parent's old age when they were no longer able to work.

Economically now we are told we need so many things to raise our child that they are very very expensive items to have in the house and people do not want to live with 14 people in a 2 bedroom house (as the Victorians often did) so they have the means to stop subsequent pregnancies with contraception, so they do stop.

Women also have more options now, they do not just wait to get married and have children by default and as their choices increase they exercise these choices, one of which is to either not have children.

An0therName Fri 12-Aug-11 15:25:20

Developing countries better access to contraception - in general

Birth rate in the UK has gone up though in past few year hasn't it though

I think there is a realationship between how easily women think they combine carreer and work though - eg in italy, spain germay pretty low birth rates i think and rubbish support for working women - eg part time difficult to do etc
UK is better than those countries but worse than scandinavia which I think has a higher birth rate

Bonsoir Fri 12-Aug-11 15:31:43

I only have one child, and that is (mostly) because my DP already has two children from his first marriage and we both feel that four children in total would be rather expensive a lot to manage.

But I will be brutally honest and say that, while having more children has crossed my mind more than once, there is something incredibly liberating about only having one child of my own (albeit a child who has siblings, so doesn't miss out) and I certainly don't live life full of regrets. I have much more time for myself and for my relationship with my DP than if I had more than one child. I am under no pressure from friends or family to have more than one child, and I have no feeling of my child being left out, and having just one means we can live a lot more spontaneously. One child is very portable!

violetwellies Fri 12-Aug-11 15:46:15

By the time many of us feel we are in a position to be a parent we have perhaps left it too late. If it takes six years to concieve (this was my experience ) then starting to ttc in your thirties means that women may be lucky if they manage to have one child.
As womens expectations have changed, career, house, consumer goods all are goals that need achieving before finding a suitable partner & ttc.

I only had two as we couldn't afford more as we both have to work full time to support our family.

Career? We are only planning on two (one here, one in the oven) so that we can both get good careers without bankrupting ourselves with childcare/not achieving the family balance we would like.

My career is pt/on hold until kids go to school.

I would love three but i also love my career.

I would say having children later (often due to waiting for male partner to grow up and/or a pair) will also limit the number of children at a certain point.

Agree with Miggsie - it's all about choice.
In the educated West I think it is mainly the personal choice of women leaving it later to start having children - I had my two when I was 31 and 35. I had been with my DH for 10 years when our first was born, so it was not that I didn't meet anyone until I was in my 30s, I just wasn't remotely broody until that stage in my life.
I did consider another but by then I was in my late 30s and was too knackered felt it was too big a potential risk for my own personal health and our family life as a whole to go through a 3rd pregnancy.

MrsFlittersnoop Fri 12-Aug-11 18:00:00

Far fewer babies die in infancy.

More countries have welfare provision for the elderly, so large families are not needed to provide support in old age.

Improved literacy rates amongst women seems to have a direct affect on family size. The more years spent in education = fewer children. Literate women are more empowered regarding life choices such as age at marriage, use of contraception etc. Information is power, particularly for women.

Greater participation of women of childbearing age in the workplace. Increased female economic activity improves the financial well-being of individual families, the wider community and the economy of the country as a whole. A woman whose financial contribution to the family is particularly valued is less likely to be pressurised into having many children.

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