Why is Poland’s Fertility Rate Lower Than Its Neighbors?

The number of births in Poland has been declining year after year. In the first eight months of 2022, only 180,000 children were born. In comparison it was 248,000 in the same period 12 years ago. According to demographers, these figures are even worse when taking into account the fact that about 3% of the children born in Poland are born to foreign parents who do not necessarily stay in the country.

Comparison of Poland’s Fertility Rate to Neighboring Countries

The fertility rate, or total fertility rate (TFR), is a key indicator that help us evaluate demographic trends. It represents the average number of children a woman will have during her lifetime. According to the Central Statistical Office (GUS in Poland), developed countries typically have fertility rates ranging from 1 to 2. There are some exceptions like Israel, where the rate is as high as 3. In contrast, poorer countries often have their fertility rates exceeding 5. The level, which is considered high is approximately 2.15. Currently, no EU country has achieved this level.

In contrast to Poland, many European countries are experiencing an opposite trend. For example, in the Czech Republic, the number of births in 2021 increased by 1.44% compared to the previous year (from 110.2 thousand to 111.79 thousand). Austria increased by 3% in births in 2021 compared to the previous year. The Netherlands also saw an increase in births from about 169,000 to 179,000. In Germany, the number of births rose by more than 22,000 in 2021, and in Italy, the number of births rose from 1.24 in 2020 to 1.25 in 2021. France also saw an increase in the number of births between 2020 and 2021, rising by about 3,000. It’s worth noting that France’s fertility rate has been at a desirable level of close to 2.00 for years.

Economic factors affecting fertility in Poland

The fertility rate in Poland has been declining sharply since 2017. After the introduction of the 500+ program, which provides financial support for families with children, the number of births increased, but then returned to the levels from the period between 2013 and 2017. Moreover, by 2021, the number of births had fallen below 350,000, and currently stands at 318,000. This is data from the period between September 2021 and August 2022. There is no indication that the fertility rate will start increasing again soon.

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While the 500+ program temporarily helped to increase the number of births in Poland, the so-called “baby boom” lived shortly. In fact, many experts believe that the sustained increase in fertility was small and does not solve the long-term problem. The number of births is important for the economy, as it affects the labor market. Currently, the low birth rate is particularly reflecting in the low unemployment rate, which stands at just 3.5% (according to the Labor Force Survey) or 5.1% (according to data from Labor Offices). This is the lowest it has ever been.

Inflation and its Impact on the Number of Children Born

It’s worth noting that rising housing prices are not the only factor affecting Poles. According to a CBOS survey, 86% of Poles are currently affected by great inflation, compared to 65% a year ago. This significant increase shows that more expensive fuels, energy, and food are severely limiting our spending plans.

This means that the perceived standard of living in Poland will also decline. In addition, if the government does not effectively protect the poorest citizens, poverty will increase. This is another factor that will contribute to a decrease in the fertility rate of Polish women. In addition to a lack of affordable housing, there will be serious economic factors causing the number of births to fall below 300,000 for the first time since 1946. A low fertility rate will not only impact the labor market, but will also make it difficult to maintain high pensions.

Role of education and career in Poland’s fertility rate

Some commentators have connected the decline in fertility in Poland to improved education and increased labor force participation among women. They suggest that the low birth rate is the result of selfish choices.

There are three mechanisms. The first is that educated women earn more, pursue further education more intensively, and accumulate human capital faster, which influences earnings growth. This makes the labor force exclusion associated with childbirth and childrearing more costly. However, data does not support this mechanism. Education may also alter preferences for the number of children, as educated women may limit the number of children in order to ensure a better life quality for each child. This mechanism is supported by data, suggesting that in order for more children to be born, they must be given a better start in life.

However, these statistics are changing. In the long term, an increase in education levels does not necessarily result in a decline in fertility. This is because higher education is becoming more common, and therefore includes more people with different preferences for the number of children. In addition, improvement in medicine make it possible to carry out procreation plans later in the life cycle.

Family Planning in Poland

In a recent survey conducted by CBOS, students in the final grades of Polish secondary schools were asked about their life goals and what is most important to them. The percentage of respondents who indicated that having a family and children is their top priority has been the lowest since the survey began in 1994, at just 33%. The highest figure was recorded in 2008 at 54%, and since then has gradually declined in subsequent surveys. In 2018, 42% of young people needed a successful family life and having children as a life goal.

According to a study published in 2021 by Dr. Konrad Piotrowski of SWPS University, about 13% of young parents in Poland regret their decision to have a child. These are individuals who feel that they made the decision to have a child at the wrong time and did not have the support of their partner in fulfilling their responsibilities. They also report that both their relationship and parenthood do not bring them happiness.

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Impact of Cultural Norms on Fertility in Poland

It’s important to note that society is becoming more diverse, which can affect young people’s environment. In the past, society was more predictable, and people typically started families after completing their education. Today, the diversification of society has made it more difficult for young people to find a partner. This problem often begins in childhood, when there is a lack of integration with peers. The increasing reliance on the internet for socializing has also contributed to this issue, as it becomes more common for people to have difficulty forming lasting relationships due to limited opportunities for real-life interactions.

The pandemic may also have contributed to qualitative social changes and an increase in fear and stress, although the extent of this problem has yet to be thoroughly analyzed. Some couples have abandoned their plans for parenthood due to the pandemic, citing a sense of danger as a reason for their decision. In times of significant events, anxiety can lead to either an increase in procreation or a change in family planning. For example, this was the case during martial law in Poland, when some people sought closeness while others were afraid. A similar phenomenon was observed during the lockdowns in Poland.

Interesting Information

  • Where are the most children born in Poland? The districts of Kartuski and Wejherowo have the highest fertility rate in Poland.
  • Where in Poland are the fewest children born? The fewest children were born in Mikolajki, Krzanowice, and Chodecz in 2021, with one newborn per thousand residents.
  • Who has the most children in Poland? The most numerous family in Poland is the Karczewski family, who live in the Grodziczno municipality in the Mazury region. They have 11 boys and 10 girls.
  • In which month are the fewest children born? The fewest children are born in November, December, and February. Statistically, the fewest children are born on weekends, with Sunday having the fewest and Saturday having the second fewest.