Fertility rates in the Med: Europe in trouble

 

The total fertility rate (TFR) represents the number of children that would be born to a woman if she were to live to the end of her childbearing years and bear children based on birth rates of the specified year. According to the Population Division of the UN, if a TFR of about 2.1 children per woman (the replacement-level fertility) is sustained over a sufficiently long period, each generation will exactly replace itself.

According to data from the World Bank, the world’s total fertility rate decreased rapidly from 1967 to 2015, going from 5 children per woman to 2.5.

So how does the Mediterranean region compare to the rest of the world?

   
  
 
  
    
  
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     Total fertility rate across the world

Total fertility rate across the world

Fertility rate dropping across the board

The Mediterranean region as a whole has replicated the global picture of fewer births, with virtually every Med country seeing its fertility rate drop by 50% or more between 1960 and 2015. 

Furthermore, the large gap in fertility rates between European Med countries and MENA Med countries remains almost as pronounced today as it was sixty years ago. The implications of this gap, however, are very different today than they were in decades past.

In the 1960s, the very high fertility rates of many non-European Med countries acted as an obstable to economic growth, while most of Europe enjoyed close to ideal fertility rates. Fast-forward to today, and the total fertility rate in Europe is too low to sustain population numbers in the absence of migration, while most MENA Med countries now occupy the ‘optimal’ 2.1-4 children per woman bracket. 

   
  
 
  
    
  
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     Fertility rate, total (births per woman) - 1960

Fertility rate, total (births per woman) - 1960

   
  
 
  
    
  
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     Fertility rate, total (births per woman) - 2015

Fertility rate, total (births per woman) - 2015

Not enough children born in European Med countries to maintain population level

European countries have the lowest total fertility rates, ranging from 1.3 to 2 children per woman, with France the only country close to replacement-level fertility. Asian and African countries have much higher total fertility rates, with the rates of the Palestinian Territories, Egypt and Israel ranging from 3 to 4 children per woman.

As shown in the chart below, the majority of the European Med countries are already seeing a drop in their population as a result - which for many of them could have been even more pronounced in the absence of immigration.

   
  
 
  
    
  
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     Population growth (annual %) - 2015

Population growth (annual %) - 2015

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