Scotland's birth rate hits new low

Posted: 4 December 2003

In 2002, Scotland recorded its lowest birth rate in the 150 years that such statistics have been kept, according to the latest government figures.

For five years, Scotland has experienced more deaths than births, and the fertility rate has fallen from 2.53 infants per woman in 1971 to 1.49infants per woman in 2002. The number of infants born has dropped from 86,728 in 1971 to 51,270 in 2002.

While the number of births is falling, life expectancy is rising. Some commentators fear the long-term consequences will include a bankruptpension system, high health care costs and a shortage of skilled workers.

"The falling birth rate is a challenge to the country of Scotland," Charles Gordon, the leader of the Glasgow City Council said, adding, "Ithas to be offset or it's a bit of a demographic time bomb."

Although experts are unsure why births have declined in Scotland, they speculate that factors such as more women entering the workforce anddelaying motherhood and increased access to contraception are partly responsible for the decline.

Jack McConnell, Scotland's first minister, has announced a series of initiatives to increase Scotland's population,including incentives forScottish expatriates to return to the region and efforts to attract more skilled immigrants.

Source: Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report, 02/12/03