New data suggests a fall in the Czech fertility rate. But is it a cause for concern? Brno Daily spoke to Professor Petr Fučík from the Faculty of Social Studies at Masaryk University (MUNI) for more details on the situation. Photo credit: Freepik.

New data from Eurostat and the Czech Statistical Office suggests a sudden decline in the number of children born per woman in the Czech Republic.

This comes after the fertility rate reached its highest point since the 1990s in 2021, with 1.83 births per woman on average. This was the second highest in Europe, behind only France with 1.84.

Preliminary data for January to September 2022 suggests a steep decline, with the lowest fertility rate in the first nine months of a year since 2004. During this period, 76,000 children were born, whereas 85,000 were born during the same period in 2021.

But is the data a cause for concern? Professor Petr Fučík of the Faculty of Social Studies at MUNI said that the recent drop in fertility rate may only be a minor fluctuation. “Fertility in the Czech Republic has been relatively stable over the last decade.”

After all, the recent data is preliminary, reflecting only the first nine months of 2022. The Total Fertility Rate acts as the best indicator of fertility, and has not yet been released.

Fučík continued, “If there is a drop in births, it is likely to be due to the fact that there are now smaller cohorts of women in the country entering the age around 30, when they start having children. This trend is likely to continue, and the number of births is likely to fall further, as there are fewer women of childbearing age.”

This doesn’t necessarily mean that people are choosing to have fewer children. Professor Fučík noted that, “On the contrary, the so-called total fertility rate in the Czech Republic is increasing slightly, now at about 1.8 children per woman.”

Nevertheless, the minimum fertility rate required to sustain a population is 2.1. Even at its peak during 2021, the Czech fertility rate fell below this. Lower fertility rates mean that the demographics of a country shift towards older ages – the population ages faster than younger generations are born.

According to Professor Fučík, an ageing population can result in “certain periodic upheavals, for example in the education system. In universities, we experienced a large increase in students after 2000, then a strong decline after 2010, followed by another slight increase around 2020.”

Ageing populations also mean that there are fewer people of normal working age to support the population, which can result in economic difficulties.

So what can the country do to minimise the problem? “That’s a million dollar question,” Professor Fučík said. “Most policies are targeted to influence people to have more children, but that’s not the root cause of the problem. Birth rates are falling simply because there are fewer people of childbearing age, not because people are having fewer children.”

One way to improve the situation is to embrace more immigration. Professor Fučík also noted that “It would certainly help to improve the general policy of reconciling work, family and gender equality.”

It’s notoriously difficult for a government to prepare for an ageing population, with Professor Fučík calling it “political suicide.”

“Every government puts it off, and we have long since missed the opportunity to deal with it painlessly. Unfortunately, we’re heading for a hard landing.”

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