Fertility may decline globally post-COVID pandemic: Study

Throughout history, spikes in mortality due to wars and famines were followed by increased births. At the same time, the Spanish Flu resulted in a temporary drop in fertility before recovering during a "baby boom."

London: Post-COVID-19, fertility will plausibly decline due to economic uncertainty and increased childcare burdens worldwide, especially in the high-income countries, say researchers.

The study, published in the journal Science, leverages historical social, economic and demographic evidence to conclude that fertility is likely to decline in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Although it is difficult to make precise predictions, a likely scenario is that fertility will fall, at least in high-income countries and in the short run,” said study researcher Arnstein Aassve, Professor at the Bocconi University in Italy.

Throughout history, spikes in mortality due to wars and famines were followed by increased births. At the same time, the Spanish Flu resulted in a temporary drop in fertility before recovering during a “baby boom.”

Contrary to this historical trend, the COVID-19 health emergency will plausibly cause a decline in fertility, without the factors that have brought on a baby boom in the past.

In high-income countries, disruption in the organisation of family life due to prolonged lockdowns, the re-internalisation of childcare within the couple following school closures, and deteriorating economic outlook are likely to lead to postponements in child-bearing.

According to the study, a further fertility fall in high-income countries will accelerate population ageing and population decline, with implications for public policy.

In low- and middle-income countries, the fertility decline observed in recent decades from trends such as urbanisation, economic development and female occupation is unlikely to be fundamentally reversed by financial setbacks.

“Difficulties, though, in accessing family planning services might result in a short-run spike in unintended pregnancies and worsening neonatal and reproductive health”

the study authors wrote.
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