- Only in a few European regions the average woman bears more than 2.1 children (replacement threshold) during her childbearing years.
- Regions in Northwest and Northern Europe show in general higher values for children born by the average woman during her childbearing years than regions in Central, Southern and Southeast Europe.
- Without immigration some regions on the Iberian Peninsula and in Eastern Europe might face severe depopulation within one generation.
- Long-term consequences of low fertility rates are ageing and depopulation. This affects, among others, the provision of services of general interest and the labour market.
Observations for policy
In most European regions, fertility rates are below the replacement threshold of 2.1. Thus without immigration, population will decline in the long-term and the average age will increase. The number of births is affected by socio-economic developments as well as future development perspectives. Consequently, current and future effects have to be assessed, and corresponding measures and policies need to be developed.
Two main fields that are affected by low fertility rates, ageing and depopulation are the provision of services of general interest and employment. Especially in regions characterised by low population density the level of services of general interest has to be readjusted. This applies to different services such as health, education, public transport, and other technical and social infrastructures. Regarding employment, appropriate positions for older employees have to be created in order to better integrate them into the labour market and thus prevent an unbalanced ratio between employees and retirees that might overburden the pension schemes.
The Territorial Agenda 2020 highlights territorially differentiated demographic challenges. Ageing and depopulation affect social and territorial cohesion, the provision of public services, labour and housing markets. Low fertility rates, combined with high life expectancy, result in an increasing share of population aged 65 and over, namely from 16% in 2000 to 18% in 2012 as mentioned in the 6th Cohesion Report. In 9 out of 10 regions, the share of elderly increased between 2000 and 2012. Effects of this development will also influence EuropeÔÇÖs role in the world which can already be seen on global scale. The countries of the EU28+4 account for 7% of the global population (2012), whereas only for 4% of young people (0-14 years, 2010) but for 17% of the elderly (65+ years, 2010).
In order to achieve balanced population development (with regards to population, its structure and its territorial distribution), regions with low fertility rates depend on immigration. As mentioned in the Europe 2020 Strategy, demographic changes can also lead to a shrinking workforce. Especially migrants, women and older workers need to be better integrated into the workforce in order to increase the employment rate to at least 75% by 2020.
Within a European context comparatively high fertility rates can mainly be seen in Western and Northern Europe, i.e. the Benelux countries, France, the UK, Ireland, and the Nordic countries. However, only fertility rates above 2.1 result in natural population growth. This means that only in some regions in the UK, Ireland, the Nordic countries (except Denmark), France and some outermost regions (R├ęunion, French Guyane, Guadeloupe) fertility rates lead to natural population growth, or at least to balanced population development.
In Central, Southern, and Southeast Europe, most regions have fertility rates below 1.5. In these regions population development is characterised by natural population decline and an aging population. In some regions in Northwest Spain, Northern Portugal, western parts of Slovakia, Hungary and Romania, as well as in Latvia, fertility rates are even below 1.25, which might approximately lead to a generation that is 50% smaller than their parentsÔÇÖ generation (under the assumption that the fertility rate remains below 1.25).
Concepts and methods
The map shows fertility rates for European NUTS2 regions in six classes, ranging from less than 1.25 to more than 2.5, in 2010. The fertility rate is defined as the average number of children a woman bears during her lifetime assuming the number of children she has is in line with her age-specific average fertility rate.