Analysis: New baby booms won't avert dependency dilemma
By Mike Dolan
LONDON (Reuters) - With so many fretting about the rapid ageing of European societies and the rising burden of old-age dependency, it's easy to overlook the mini baby booms in many countries.
Often apocalyptic headlines on the graying of major economies and the "pensions time bomb" sit oddly with a growing body of data and reports of rising births and recovering fertility rates in many European economies, notably Britain.
Only this week, the inside pages of many UK newspapers dropped the little nugget that England this year is set to record the highest number of births in 40 years.
According to data released by the Royal College of Midwives, more than 700,000 babies are likely to be born in 2012 if first-quarter trends persist - more than in any year since 1971.
And these numbers are no isolated blip. There's been a welter of statistical and anecdotal evidence from Britain and elsewhere in Europe in recent years that shows a significant upturn in birth rates since the turn of the millennium.
A study released late last year by the RAND Europe think-tank showed that after two decades of year-on-year declines the total fertility rate for the European Union as a whole has stabilized in the 21st century, with all but four EU countries recording increases between 2000 and 2008.
National pictures vary of course and there's only a modest increase in Germany and the Netherlands. But Britain has more than reversed declines of the prior 20 years and pushed back close to "replacement rates" of 2.1 births on average per woman - the threshold where population stands still.
If trends of the past decade were to persist, RAND reckons replacement rates - which EU countries slid below as long ago as the 1970s - would be hit again in France and Sweden by 2015. Continued...