Birth dip: far fewer babies born this year due to ‘crisis and misery’ | Family

Many thousands fewer babies were born in the first four months of this year than in previous years. The difference with the baby boom in 2021 is even remarkably large, but also compared to 2020 and 2019, fewer children will be born in the Netherlands.

While almost 57,000 children were born in the first four months of the year in 2021, the number is now just over 53,000. “It is significantly lower than one would expect from the period 2015-2019,” says sociologist Tanja Traag from CBS.

Last year is considered a year in which there was a striking number of births: the birth rate was not so high for ten years. But the first four months of the year show that this year seems to be heading for a record low level so far. Even in 2018, when the lowest number of children were born in decades, there were still more births.


In times of crisis and misery, birth rates tend to decline

Theo Engelen, professor of historical demography

According to Theo Engelen, professor of historical demography at Radboud University in Nijmegen, it is very logical in the light of history that people now have fewer children. An old rule, he says, is that in a bad economy, the tendency to multiply is less. “In times of crisis and misery, birth rates tend to fall.”

He therefore expected that the number of births would also decrease during the corona period. Because of the measures, many companies were unsure of their survival, and the threat of the virus also created insecurity among the people themselves. But in corona times, the number of births actually increased. It is possible that the Dutch, due to the contact-limiting measures, have begun to focus more on their partners. “People have gone a little more back to the core of the family,” Engelen now believes.

Also more often a dog

Traag says that the trade-off may have changed because it had become more convenient to combine work with privacy when the Dutch worked from home so much. During the corona period, several also bought a dog for that reason.


People first want to make sure they have a good place to live where there is also room for a baby

Tanja Traag, sociologist at CBS

She thinks that the uncertainty about, for example, a job in the Netherlands in the corona years was not so bad, too few companies went bankrupt due to state aid. While now with rising prices, people are becoming more uncertain about their financial position. The tightness of the housing market may also play a role. Traag: “People first want to be sure they have a good place to live that also has room for a baby.”

The number of births has steadily declined over the years. And a temporary recovery could be followed by a temporary dive, Traag believes. Women could possibly have more children because of the corona period. This can already be seen in the figures for the first months of the year.

But in fact, Traag had expected that the number of births would get a somewhat longer recovery because an increasing group of women seemed to be postponing the pregnancy. “There are more and more of them close to the edge of what is still biologically possible, where it’s risky to wait longer.”

Most births in the summer

The number of births will increase again in the coming months, but for a different reason: Most births have been in July and August for many years. The reason, according to Engelen, is that in the autumn, when it gets a little colder and darker, you often squeeze closer together and lie in bed longer than in the summer.

On average, about 14,000 children are born each month, last year there were about 2,000 more in July, August and September.

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Joep van Loon was, as far as is known, the first child born in the region in 2022. He was born at the CWZ hospital in Nijmegen just after midnight. As it turns out, Joep will have fewer contemporaries than expected. © Gerard Verschooten

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