The number of babies being born in England and Wales has been increasing for the past 10 years since hitting a 25-year low of 595,000 in 2001.
In 2011, there were 724,000 births, an increase of 22% from 2001. This growth in births over the decade has been accompanied by a large increase in the proportion of births in England and Wales to women born outside the UK, from around 16% in 2001 to nearly 26% in 2011. Births here is equivalent to the number of babies born, so twins is two births.
This short story uses 2011 Census data to look at fertility rates for women who were born in the EU but then migrated to England and Wales. The measure used is called the total fertility rate (TFR). The TFR is a hypothetical measure of how many children a woman would be expected to have if she experienced current rates of childbearing throughout her reproductive years, and is useful for comparing populations.
The TFR of England and Wales as a whole in 2011 was 1.93, meaning on average women in England and Wales would be expected to have slightly less than two children each by the time they finish childbearing, if 2011 rates were applied to their whole lives.
A quarter of babies in England and Wales were born to women from outside the UK
Births in England and Wales can be broken down into births to native women (UK born) and births to immigrant women (non-UK born). In 2011, there were 539,000 births to UK born women compared with 185,000 births to women from outside the UK. The TFR was 1.84 for UK born women and 2.21 for women born outside the UK.
Births to women from the EU accounted for about three in every 10 of these births to non-UK born mothers (or 55,000), making them a group worth investigation. Figure 1 shows the TFR for each EU country, plotted against the number of births this group had in 2011. A big circle means that women born in that country had more births as a group, whereas a circle near the top of the chart means that women born in that country had a high TFR.
Figure 1: TFRs of women born in EU countries, living in England and Wales, 2011
Women from Poland had the most births; women from Romania had the highest TFR
Poland was the most common country of birth (excluding UK countries) for women giving birth in 2011 with 20,500 births, and so has the largest circle. This is the result of a TFR of 2.13, combined with a large population of childbearing age women from that country.
Women born in Romania, meanwhile, had a TFR of 2.93, the highest of any EU country. However, due to their smaller population size in England and Wales this only led to 3,500 births in 2011. So although each woman born in Romania would be expected to have a TFR that is 0.8 more than women born in Poland (on average), as a group they would be expected to have far fewer births.
Women born in Germany had the second largest number of births in 2011, with around 5,100 babies. This is likely to include women who were born in Germany while their UK born parents served in the armed forces, as the UK maintained a substantial military presence in Germany for several decades after World War 2. Women living in England and Wales who were born in Germany tend to have a slightly lower TFR than women born in the UK.
Women from Luxembourg had the fewest births; women from Italy had the lowest TFR
Looking at the other countries on the chart, the new EU countries (known as the A12) that have joined since 2001, such as Poland or Lithuania, tend to have more births and a higher TFR than women born in the older EU countries, such as France or Spain.
The smallest number of births was to women born in Luxembourg, with just 21 births in 2011. The lowest TFR was for women born in Italy. These women would be expected to have a TFR of 1.1, meaning they will have around half as many children as women born in Poland or Slovakia.
How reliable are TFR estimates?
It is important to bear in mind the reliability of the TFR estimates. The quality of the birth registrations and population estimates used in these rates is very high, but small population sizes (such as those for Slovenia or Luxembourg) can lead to unusually high or unusually low TFRs. The larger a population, and the more births it has, the more confident we can be about the reliability of its TFR estimate.
Where can I get further information on this subject?
This short story has looked at fertility rates for EU countries, which make up around a quarter of the non-UK births in England and Wales. Women born in non-EU countries show an even larger range of TFR values, from around 5.6 for Libya down to 1.1 for South Korea. More detail on these fertility patterns, and those of other world countries and regions can be found in a short report on 2011 fertility patterns by mother’s country of birth.