“Policies for birth”

The drop in birth rates seemed to have reached a halt. For now. But family associations recall the "tremendous demographic crisis" and call for interventions

In 2014, 426,303 children were born in Spain, 588 in the previous year (+ 0.1%), which implies at least the interruption of the downward trend that began in 2008 and which recorded a decrease of 18% in the number of births over the past five years. According to the movement on population and demographic indicators, released by the National Statistical Institute (INE), the birth rate in 2014 amounted to 9.1 births per thousand inhabitants, as in 2013, so the downward trend that began in 2008 seems to have reached a standstill. The doubts of family associations. Spain’s Forum on the Family along with the Institute for Family policies (IPF), the Family Watch and the Union of Family Associations (UNAF) underlined that the 0.1% birth rate increase in 2014 that emerged from data on the natural population movement is “insignificant” and “cyclical”. Moreover, IPF chairman Eduardo Hertfelder recalled that the findings of the survey are “provisional” so there could be fluctuations given that the definitive 2014 figures “are not yet available”. Hertfelder also underlined that the rate of children per woman in 2014 (1.32 compared to 1.27 in 2013) is “very distant” from the rate of replacement (2.1) and pointed out that there should be 50 thousand births more per year to ensure generational replacement, following a reduction in the annual number of births in the period 2008 – 2014. Moreover, he ascribed the rise in births to an improvement in the perception of the economic situation that makes it easier to “take final decisions” such as marriages, divorces or having children. At the same time, Hertfelder denied the existence of a “change in trend”, arguing that the conditions that favour births remain unaltered. There are no new policies. On the same wavelength, the director general of The Family Watch, José María Olesti, identified in the economic recovery, “an important factor” for people to “decide to have children”, but “not the most important”. In his view, the determining factor in the decision to have children is family stability and commitment of couples. On his part, the chief executive of Spain’s Forum on the Family Ignacio García Juliá, said his association “lauds” birth increase but also underlined that it’s a cyclical event against the backdrop of a “serious demographic crisis”. For Juliá, “there are no new policies encouraging maternity and natality” that could explain a rise in birth-rates assuming that in the face of the difficulties in reconciling work and family life, female unemployment has triggered an increase in births. In any case, he argued that it would take “four or five years” to see if the current figures initiate a change in trend. The Director General of the Forum highlighted “the urgent need to make motherhood attractive”, since in his opinion, “it is penalized” by the welfare perspective in Spain. “We who have children know that in the end the budget is always positive, although at the beginning you are scared because you start thinking about the future,” he assured. Juliá claimed the need for “serious State interventions” with the adoption of policies that favour families’ stability and promote birth rate. According to the director general of the Forum, the demographic crisis “is a problem that the governments of any political colour will have to confront”. Promoting reconciliation. UNAF president Julia Pérez, highlighted the increase in child poverty indicators. In her opinion a 588-birth increase in a Country with 47 million citizens “is almost ridiculous”, considering it not a true birth rate increase but rather the preservation of the levels of the previous year. Pérez said it is necessary to continue promoting actions for the reconciliation of work and family life and shared responsibility at home to improve the conditions for family life, and that enterprises “should not consider motherhood as a burden”, while resources “should be earmarked to help families in the early years of maternity (0 to 3 years)” for example through the creation of nurseries, to limit the “high costs” of a child in the first years of life.

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