‘Baby bust’ sees birth rates dive in 91 coun­tries


DE­CLIN­ING FER­TIL­ITY rates around the world are lead­ing to a “baby bust” in many coun­tries in­clud­ing the UK, health ex­perts have re­vealed.

Glob­ally fer­til­ity rates, which rep­re­sent the av­er­age num­ber of chil­dren a woman de­liv­ers over her life­time, have de­clined since 1950 and in 91 na­tions, rates are now not high enough to main­tain cur­rent pop­u­la­tion lev­els.

The large-scale study, pub­lished in the found that in 2017, 91 coun­tries (in­clud­ing the UK, Sin­ga­pore, Spain, Nor­way and South Korea) had rates lower than two and were not main­tain­ing their cur­rent pop­u­la­tion size.

Mean­while 104 na­tions were see­ing pop­u­la­tion in­creases due to their high fer­til­ity rates (rates above two).

The low­est rate was in Cyprus where, on av­er­age, a woman now gives birth to one child through­out her life, while the high­est was in Niger, with a to­tal fer­til­ity rate of seven chil­dren. The fer­til­ity rate in the UK is 1.7, which is sim­i­lar to most West­ern Eu­ro­pean coun­tries.

Dr Christo­pher Mur­ray, di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute for Health Met­rics and Eval­u­a­tion (IHME) at the Uni­ver­sity of Wash­ing­ton, said: “Th­ese statis­tics rep­re­sent both a ‘baby boom’ for some na­tions and a ‘baby bust’ for oth­ers.

“The lower rates of women’s fer­til­ity clearly re­flect not only ac­cess to and avail­abil­ity of re­pro­duc­tive health ser­vices, but also many women choos­ing to de­lay or forgo giv­ing birth, as well as hav­ing more op­por­tu­ni­ties for ed­u­ca­tion and em­ploy­ment.”

He also said: “We’ve reached this wa­ter­shed where half of coun­tries have fer­til­ity rates be­low the re­place­ment level, so if noth­ing hap­pens the pop­u­la­tions will de­cline in those coun­tries.

“It’s a re­mark­able tran­si­tion. It’s a sur­prise even to peo­ple like my­self, the idea that it’s half the coun­tries in the world will be a huge sur­prise to peo­ple.”

The fig­ures come from the an­nual Global Bur­den of Dis­ease study (GBD), which pro­vides es­ti­mates for around 280 causes of death, 359 dis­eases and in­juries and 84 risk fac­tors in 195 coun­tries and ter­ri­to­ries world­wide.

The study is co­or­di­nated by the IHME and in­volves more than 3,500 col­lab­o­ra­tors from across more than 140 coun­tries and ter­ri­to­ries.

Other find­ings in­clude that more than half of all global deaths in 2017 were caused by just four risk fac­tors, high blood pres­sure, smok­ing, high blood glu­cose, and high body mass in­dex (BMI). High blood pres­sure was the lead­ing risk, ac­count­ing for 10.4m deaths, fol­lowed by smok­ing (7.1m deaths), high blood glu­cose (6.5m deaths) and high BMI (4.7m deaths).

A British-built ship is to re­turn home af­ter years as a vis­i­tor at­trac­tion in Hawaii. Built in 1878 in Port Glas­gow, the Falls of Clyde is moored in Hon­olulu har­bour. A group cam­paign­ing to bring her back to Scot­land has agreed a deal with a Dutch firm to col­lect her next year.

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