A group of Italian scientists from Bocconi University conducted a study on the demographic situation in the world during the COVID-19 pandemic. It turned out that the birth rate in rich countries has declined over the past year and a half.
In their article, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists studied fertility rates in the 22 richest countries in the world from 2016 to the first months of 2021.
In the early days of the pandemic, experts assumed that the world was waiting for a baby boom, as people were forced to stay at home and not go to work. In self-isolation, there are not many options for what to do, experts believed. However, historians have disagreed with this hypothesis. They recalled that during the 1918 flu pandemic, some countries experienced a fertility crisis – in the UK, India, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Sri Lanka, and Taiwan. People who live in uncertain times tend to postpone having babies until things get back to normal. So, the end of World War II led to the baby boom. The new work of scientists has confirmed the correctness of historians: at least in rich countries.
The work involved examining birth records from the 22 richest countries in the world and then comparing them from 2016 to early this year. At the same time, scientists have not forgotten about the existing known seasonal fluctuations in fertility.
The researchers found that, in general, fertility rates fell during the pandemic, and in some countries the rates reached crisis levels. For example, in Italy the difference was 9.1%. Scientists also noted that the recession began about nine months after the start of the pandemic. They suggested that people reacted to the unstable situation in the world and refused to have children.
At the same time, American scientists have found that over the past year and a half in some northern countries of Europe, the birth rate has even increased. According to the researchers, the reason for this may be in the relatively small scale of the pandemic in these states, as well as in the presence of a developed system of social support on their territory.
As of March 2021, Niger has the highest average fertility rate in the world. Somalia is in second place, Congo is in third. Also in the top ten are Mali, Chad, Angola, Burundi, Nigeria, Gambia.
The researchers note that it is too early to say whether the downturn will be offset by a future mini-boom as the coronavirus situation stabilizes. However, when this will come, no one knows.