Fertility Growth

The first association of fertility and growth is likely the growing of fertility rates in a country or region. Only macro economists associate the growth or decline of fertility with the macroeconomic consequences of more or less economic growth. Countries with higher fertility rates in most cases have higher growth rates as parents spend more on food, clothes, mobility and education. Accommodations are changed, adapted and refurbished. Estimates of increased consumption per child by economists range from 500.000 to almost 1 million in the highest developed countries. Children are a country’s wealth, but they also cost a fortune in monetary terms. Good news for the economy if families keep spending independent of economic cycles. More children keeps dedicated shops running or even a whole sector of the economy. In recessions the downward pressure in this sector becomes an additional challenge not only for the families but with ripples-on effects for the whole economy and society. If you see shops closing which has sold furniture for children for the last 15 years then the realization of an economic downturn becomes also more real. Sometimes the parallels in the news of declining fertility and increases in pensions do not square well with the fitness for the future or the future orientation of a society. Democratic voting rights that give families more weight in elections could change this. It is not yet on the political agenda.

Fertility BPS-SPB

Fertility is another example of the co-determination of the biological, psychological and societal spheres of life. The latest available data for Germany and Sweden in 2023 show a remarkable decline of 10% in the seasonally adjusted Total Fertility Rate (TFR) in both countries (Bujard, Andersson 2024). The TFR was at 1.3 in Germany and 1.5 in Sweden. This means both countries are well below their population replacement rate. In both countries the populations will shrink further. There are no easy answers to the question: why?
The co-determination of the biological, psychological and societal spheres of life seems to be combined driving force. The biological clocks are ticking for women who delayed birth. Maybe pollution of drinking water or PFAS, nanoparticles of plastics disturb fertility. Psychological reasons such as increased anxieties due to the Covid-19 pandemic, lock downs or closed schools have left parents without adequate support for 2 years. Isolation or loneliness could have delayed partnerships and fertility as a consequence. The social environment has also provided additional uncertainty as the cost of living has risen and affordable housing for families is scarce in both countries.
We have probably underestimated the effects of the “Zeitenwende” on people’s mind sets. Sweden has suddenly sought to join NATO to achieve a broader military safety net for its people. In Germany the experience of damages due to war or as a consequence of Russian occupied territory is very present in people’s mind. The war of Russia in Ukraine may have increased uncertainties, anxieties beyond the immediate effects of higher living costs, interest rates or prices for energy. At best fertility might only be delayed for some years, but the consequences of shrinking populations need to be taken seriously. Making societies more welcoming for children and their parents is part of the solution.