The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in the German city of Rostock said in a study published in the journal Demographic Research that the birth rate per woman in 28 European countries dropped faster on average the higher the unemployment rate rose.
The trend hit Southern European countries the hardest, especially Spain. The birth rate there was 1.24 children per woman at the beginning of 2000 and rose every year, reaching 1.47 in 2008. In 2009, it fell to 1.4 as the jobless rate rose from 8.3 to 11.3 percent. In 2011, births had fallen to 1.36 per woman. Today, Spanish unemployment stands at 26.8 percent.
Hungary, Ireland, Croatia and Latvia also had significant drops in their birth rates, the report found.
People under 25, in particular, abstained from having children when faced with rising unemployment. The trend was observed most sharply among young people having their first child.
Whether or not economic conditions have an influence on reproduction is one of the great unanswered questions of demographic research. However, co-author Michaela Kreyenfeld said the study has proved that in Europe today the jobless rate in a country does indeed affect its people's willingness to have children.
Kreyenfeld said the report found that if unemployment rises 1 percentage point, the birth rate per woman for 20- to 24-year-olds sinks 0.1 across the continent and 0.3 in Southern Europe.
In Czech Republic, Poland, Great Britain and Italy climbing birth rates were interrupted by the crisis.
Germany, Austria and Switzerland are three countries whose labor markets weathered the crisis without major stress. In all three countries, there was little change in the birth rate. In Germany, the birth rate has stabilized below a value of 1.4 children per woman.
For their report, the institute analyzed data for 2001 to 2010 and part of 2011.
hc/mz (dpa, AFP, epd)