Pregnancy: Wales’ record low birth rate has ‘consequences’ By Paul Martin & Zola Hargreaves
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Copy link About sharing Image caption, Many parents are putting their careers first and having children later in life Wales’ record low birth rate has “significant consequences” for schools and the NHS, the head of the public spending watchdog has said.
Wales’ birth rate is at a 100-year low, below the European Union average and third out of the UK’s four countries.
Experts believe a variety of factors are driving the change.
They include women having greater roles in the workplace, more control over fertility, and the increasing costs of raising children.
The “childfree movement,” often motivated by concerns about climate change, may also be growing in significance.
But auditor general Adrian Crompton said consequences could include falling pupil numbers, risking the futures of schools, and more demand on the NHS and other services when the working-age population is not growing.
So what are people thinking about when deciding whether to have kids?
Deaths outnumber births for first time in 40 years Most Welsh homes to get £150 payment ‘Costs going up but finances stagnant’ Image caption, Katie Baskerville and her partner Pete are questioning how safe it is to bring a child into the world Katie Baskerville, from Deiniolen in Gwynedd, and her partner Pete are considering whether to start a family.
The 30-year-old writer has polycystic ovary syndrome which can cause fertility problems and brings a higher risk of complications during pregnancy.
But it is not only the “emotional pressure” trying to get pregnant could bring that is on the pair’s minds.
“We have a global pandemic that we’re still grappling with and struggling with…the climate crisis as well,” Katie said.
“Is it safe to bring a child into the world?
“Biologically is it safe – is the environment safe, will they have a good quality of life, can we afford it?
“So for us it’s thinking about how can we make the lives of our future children the happiest and healthiest possible, and if we can’t do that then perhaps we shouldn’t.”
Image caption, Shannon Lloyd would have as many children she could if money was not a factor Shannon Lloyd, 24, and her partner Morgan Weaver, 35, who are both from Pontypool, Torfaen, had their first child, Romilly, five months ago.
She said she would “have as many kids as I could” if money was no object, but that is not the reality.
“Definitely another one, but three, we couldn’t do it, definitely not,” Shannon said, citing the need for a bigger house, a bigger car and more childcare.
Image caption, Morgan Weaver and Shannon Lloyd both work full-time “We don’t get any [financial] help with childcare until Romilly’s three, so when planning our next child it will have to be when she’s three,” she added.
The average age women are having children has risen steadily since the mid-1970s, and last month it was revealed that more than half of women in Wales and England are reaching the age of 30 childfree.
Having a baby at 50: My friends are grandparents Supermodel Campbell becomes mum to baby girl ‘Giving birth without medical help felt safer’ Naomi Burge and John King from Caerleon, in Newport, had their first child Aoife in 2020 when Naomi was 35.
That was because she wanted to develop her dog grooming business first.
Image caption, Naomi says she wanted to put her career first so she was financially ready for a child She said: “I decided to go self-employed when I was 30, so I wanted to establish my business so I had a business to go back to when she (Aoife) was here.
“When I first met my midwife she said I was a geriatric mother which I was a bit like, ‘oh, ok’.”
For Naomi, having a baby was “the last thing on my mind” in her 20s.
She said she questioned how she would afford trying to establish a business, get a mortgage on top of raising a child.
“I wanted to make sure I was comfortable before I would think about having a baby and know that I can support her financially with whatever she wants and needs, and I’m comfortable to provide for her,” she added.
What do the statistics show? Research shows Scotland’s total fertility rate (TFR) is even lower than Wales’, at 1.29.
Last year the Scottish government published its first “national population strategy” as it tries to analyse the “barriers” people may face when deciding whether to start a family.
In an analysis for BBC Wales, Mr Crompton said we are seeing a “fundamental change to the shape of the population” here with the birth rate falling while the elderly population gets bigger.
He said the consequences could include:
Falling pupil numbers making some schools unviable Increased demand on the NHS and care services from the elderly coming at a time when the working-age population is not growing A likely increase in the cost-per-person of maternity units, childcare and youth services, meaning families may have to travel further to access them Pipe dream life ‘out of touch’ for now For 26-year-old Joe Stockley, despite earning an “about average” salary, he has “had to come to terms” with the fact it is likely he will not be able to have children in the next 10 years.
“We were sold a dream of going to university, renting and then beginning to save and look to get on the housing market,” the Cardiff charity worker said.
Image caption, Joe Stockley says he is struggling to save enough to afford the dream of having a family and buying a house “That pipe dream of buying a house, having a family – it’s out of touch.
“You just can’t save enough…unless you were given some from inheritance you can’t ever afford it.
“I’m saving like £30 a month if I’m lucky.”
Professor Dr Sarah Harper, from Oxford University, believes birth rates will continue to be low throughout the 21st Century.
“That’s good at one level, it’s good for women, it’s good for communities and it’s good for our planet.
“But I think for those young couples who want to start a family it helps if governments can be sympathetic to their needs, and particularly that’s around things like childcare and maybe making it more economically viable to have that first child through the benefits system, for example.”
The Welsh government said tackling Wales’s “demographic challenge” is a “major priority”.
“On current trends, there is a risk that the working age adults could make up just 58% of the population by 2043.
“In response, we have set out a clear vision about what makes Wales an attractive place to live, study, work and invest, including the quality of life in an inclusive, open and green nation.”
You can see more on this story on Wales Live on the BBC iPlayer .HAYLEY PEARCE PODCAST : Tackling the issues that make your group chats go off I WAS THERE: Real life experiences from major moments More on this story ‘Giving birth without medical help felt safer’
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