In the first four months of this year, the number of births was several thousand fewer than in previous years. The difference with the baby boom in 2021 is remarkably large, but also compared to 2020 and 2019, fewer children are born in the Netherlands.
While nearly 57,000 babies were born in 2021 in the first four months of the year, the counter now stands at more than 53,000. “It’s much lower than you’d expect based on 2015-2019,” says sociologist Tanya Tragg of Statistics Netherlands.
The past year is seen as a year with a staggering number of births: the birth rate hasn’t been as high in ten years. But the first four months of this year show that this year appears to be heading towards a record low at the moment. Even in 2018, when the fewest children were born in decades, there were more births.
In times of crisis and misery, birth rates tend to fall
According to Theo Engelen, professor of historical demography at Radboud University in Nijmegen, it makes a lot of sense in light of history that people are now having fewer children. The old rule, he says, is that in a bad economy, the propensity to procreate is less. “In times of crisis and misery, birth rates tend to fall.”
So expect that the number of births will also decrease at the time of the corona. Because of these measures, many companies were unsure of their survival, and the threat of the virus also caused uncertainty among the people themselves. But in the time of Corona, the number of births has already increased. It is possible that due to contact-limiting measures, the Dutch began to focus more on their partners. Englen now believes that “people are back to the core of the family a little bit more”.
Also often a dog
Tragg says the trade-offs may have changed because it became more practical to combine work and private life when the Dutch often worked from home. In the Corona period, more people also bought a dog for this reason.
People first want to make sure that they have a good place to live as there is also a place for a baby
She believes that the uncertainty about, say, a job in the Netherlands in the Corona years was not so bad, because few companies went bankrupt due to government support. Whereas now, with higher prices, people are becoming more and more insecure about their financial situation. Tightness in the housing market may also play a role. Traag: “People first want to make sure they have a good place to live that also fits a baby.”
The number of births has steadily decreased over the years. Traag believes that a temporary bounce can be followed by a temporary decline. Women can have more children due to the corona period. This can already be seen in the figures of the first months of this year.
But in fact, Traag predicted that the number of births will take a somewhat longer recovery period, because an increasing number of women seem to be delaying pregnancy. “There are more and more of them near the edge of what is still biologically possible, which is risky to wait any longer.”
Most births are in the summer
The number of births will increase again in the coming months, but for a different reason: most births have been in July and August for many years. According to Engelen, the reason is that in the fall, when it gets a little cooler and darker, people often huddle together and lie in bed longer than in the summer.
On average, about 14,000 babies are born each month, and last year there were about 2,000 additional babies in July, August and September.
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