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Birth rates rise with women at work: report

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12:22 CEST+02:00

Rising fertility rates in European countries are strongly linked to increased numbers of women in the labour market, according to a French report.

The report by the national institute for demographic studies, Ined, looked for explanations of the increased birth rates in a number of European countries. 

"In OECD countries, the birth rate has gone from an average of 1.69 children [per woman] in 1995 to 1.71 in 2008," said the report. "The increase has been particularly marked in Spain, France, Belgium, the UK and Ireland."

While rising wealth seems to be an important factor, the report's authors found it wasn't the only one. 

"In the majority of wealthy countries, the increase in the birth rate is associated with a higher rate of employment among women," said report authors Angela Luci and Olivier Thévenon. "The possibility for them to combine work and family appears to be a key factor in the increase in the birth rate."

The report found that the birth rate tends to be higher in countries where women work the most, such as Scandinavia, where "the employment rate of women is over 80 percent and the fertility rate is the highest."

Factors such as affordable and comprehensive childcare facilities mean that mothers are able to return more easily to work to earn money to add to the family income. A flexible labour market, allowing part-time work, is also a factor.

At the other end of the scale, Germany has a much lower birth rate than many other countries, at just 1.4 children per woman in 2010.

"Germany has certainly reformed its parental leave to encourage women to work longer, but if childcare does not follow it will not change much," said Thévenon.

In 2009, France had a birth rate of 1.99 children per woman. This was followed by the UK and Sweden, on 1.94, and fell to as low as 1.32 for Portugal.

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