New Fertility Rates for Europe

(November 2007) Norway has one of the highest fertility rates in Europe, at 1.90 lifetime children per woman in 2006. Within Europe, only Iceland (2.07 children per woman) and France (1.98 children per woman) have higher rates.


The lowest rates are found in eastern European countries, where women average 1.3 or fewer children per woman. The low rates concern policymakers within the region because they mean an older age structure and population decline over the long term, even with immigration.


The extremely low fertility has already caused radical changes in countries’ age distributions. Many countries now face the very real possibility that up to one-third of their population will be over age 65. Many are already seeing more deaths than births each year-and population decline.


To see recent trends and compare low-birth rate countries, go to¬† PRB’s “Fertility Rates for Low Birth-Rate Countries, 1995 to Most Recent Year.” (PDF: 219KB)


About the Low-Fertility Rate Trend Project


PRB has a new project to allow our visitors to monitor the fertility trends in low-fertility countries. We have created a table with national total fertility rate (TFRs). (The TFR is the average number of births that a woman would have in her lifetime given current birth rates.) Our table shows TFRs from 1995 to the most recent year available for 53 countries. The table will be updated when we discover new information.


Most of countries shown in the table are generally considered industrialized and all have complete registration of births and deaths. A few, such as Iceland, Israel, and the United States, do not have extremely low TFRs, but are included for comparative purposes. Some very small countries, such as Andorra and Liechtenstein, may show considerable annual variation, and it will be difficult to discern a trend.


Establishing a reliable time series for the 53 countries listed in the table can be challenging. Country boundaries can change-such as when Yugoslavia broke into several countries. Often, slightly different rates are reported for the same year in different sources. To the extent possible, our table will use only official national statistics and rates that clearly represent consistent time series.


Rates given in bold are taken directly from national statistical websites and/or publications (primary sources). Those in lightface are from the Council of Europe’s Recent Demographic Developments in Europe, while those in italic are PRB estimates for a recent year.


Figures will be updated as soon as they become available. To the best of our knowledge, this service exists nowhere else. There are, of course, myriad reasons for fluctuations in the TFR, ranging from changing economic conditions to changes in the timing of births in women’s lifetimes. These questions will be addressed separately in future website updates.


Check back often for updates to the table, new graphics, and articles about the low-fertility phenomenon.


The table is updated by Carl Haub, who holds the Conrad Taeuber Chair of Population Information at the Population Reference Bureau. He was assisted by Jennay Ghowrwal.