Birth rate in England and Wales hits record low

The birth rate in England and Wales has fallen to the lowest it has been for at least 80 years, official figures show.

There were 657,076 live births in 2018, a decrease of 3.2% since 2017 and 9.9% down since 2012.

It is the third year in a row that the number of live births has dropped and levels have not been this low since 2005, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

The birth rate has hit a record low, decreasing from 11.6 to 11.1 live births per 1,000 people – the lowest since records began in 1938, the ONS said.

The ONS said falling fertility rates were mainly responsible, but the fall could have been exaggerated by an ageing population, with a larger proportion of older people compared with those able to bear children.

The figures showed the stillbirth rate reached a record low for the second year running in 2018, with 4.1 stillbirths per 1,000 total births.

There were 2,689 stillbirths in England and Wales in 2018 – a fall of 6.4% from the previous year.

The total fertility rate fell to 1.7 children per woman in England and Wales, a 3.4% decrease compared with 2017. This continues a six-year trend, the ONS said.

Fertility rates fell in women of all ages except those aged 40 and over, where they remained the same.

Rates were highest in the East of England, with 1.81 children per woman, while the North East remained with the lowest figure at 1.58.

For the first time since 1990, the percentage of live births in England and Wales to mothers born outside the UK decreased, from 28.4% in 2017 to 28.2% in 2018.

Kathryn Littleboy of the ONS’s Vital Statistics Output Branch said: “Our analysis of births in England and Wales in 2018 paints a picture of decreases and some record lows. The birth rate was the lowest ever recorded, when births are measured as a proportion of the total population.

“The total fertility rate stood at 1.7 children per woman, lower than all years except 1977 and 1999 to 2002.

“The proportion of live births to non-UK mothers fell for the first time since 1990. The stillbirth rate reached the lowest level recorded for the second year running.

“There were 657,076 live births last year, the fewest since 2005 and a drop of almost 10% since 2012.”

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