More flexible working and more study are part of the causes of lower birth rates

Fewer children are born because women study more and have flexible contracts more often. This is the opinion of the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) in a new study into the declining number of births in the Netherlands.

The birth rate in the Netherlands has been declining for some time. 184,000 children were born in 2010; in 2018 there were 169,000, a decrease of about 8 percent. The average number of children per woman decreased from 1.8 to 1.6 during that period. That is the lowest level since 1997.

Student and flex worker would rather wait a while

The suspicion that studying and flex contracts influence the decision to have children had been around for some time. Statistics Netherlands has now conducted more extensive research into this.

This shows that the increase in the number of women with flexible work is one of the causes of the declining birth rate, albeit to a limited extent. According to Statistics Netherlands, the financial insecurity that flexwork entails means that women are less likely to start children.

The birth rate has also declined as more and more women started studying in recent years. As a student, they are less likely to choose children. Students usually do not have enough money to pay for the costs of a child during their studies. They also prefer to wait until after the study, because a completed study is seen as an important condition for parenting.

Effect ‘quite small’, more factors important

Statistics Netherlands says that the overall effect of the two developments is “quite small”, with a drop of 0.021 children per woman. If the share of female flex workers had not increased since 2010, more than 1,600 more babies would have been born, according to statisticians; there would have been more than 400 more births if the number of women studying had not increased since 2010.

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Moreover, the decrease in births is almost only seen in women under 33 years of age. This could mean that women mainly postpone the choice of a child.

That is why these figures do not tell the whole story, Tanja Traag of Statistics Netherlands warns. “There are many more reasons to choose children or not. And often it is also a very emotional decision, which cannot always be captured in numbers.”

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