The Southeast Asian island nation of Timor-Leste also makes it into the top ten, with a fertility rate of 5.337 children per woman, while other island nations, such as Sao Tome and Principe (4.361 children per woman) and the Solomon Islands (3.77 children per woman) are also within the top fifty countries with the highest fertility rates. In Europe, Ireland and France have the highest fertility rates (at 1.98 and 1.852 children per woman), while the United States averages 1.886 children per woman.
Two of the most densely populated countries in the world – China and India – have fertility rates on the lower end of the scale. At 2.303 children per woman, India ranks at number 94 on the list, while China is much lower at 1.635 children per woman. However, both of these figures are likely to be affected by government policies and cultural expectations around reproduction in these countries. Taiwan has the lowest fertility rate in the world at 1.218 children per woman, closely followed by Moldova and Portugal, where there are, on average, 1.23 and 1.241 children per woman.
The fertility rate of a country is a figure that reflects the number of children a woman would give birth to under two conditions: the woman were to experience age-specific fertility rates and if the woman were to survive through her reproductive child-bearing years. Statistically, this means ages 15 to 44, or in some cases, ages 15 to 49.
The fertility rate isn’t a measure of how many children each woman in a specific area has. Instead, it’s based on the average number that a woman could potentially have. This is also known as “total fertility rate.” Birth rate is the number of births per 1,000 of a population in a specific area.
The highest fertility rates are found in countries located in Africa. Based on World Bank data from 2017, the highest fertility rate can be found in Niger, where the rate is 7.2. Somalia has the next highest fertility rate of 6.2. The Democratic Republic of Congo comes in third place with a fertility rate of 6.0.
Other nations with high fertility rates include:
All fertility rates on the list above are at or above 5.0.
Looking at the data from another angle, the countries and dependencies with the lowest fertility rates are the Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, and Puerto Rico, each of which have a fertility rate of 1.1. Singapore and Moldova also have low rates at just 1.2.
Other nations with low fertility rates are:
These nations are just a few that fall below the worldwide fertility rate of 2.4.
Nigeria ranks number 8 in the world, with a fertility rate of 5.4 children per woman. The relatively high fertility rate in Nigeria, according to a paper published by the UN, can be attributed to a low use of contraception, early and universal marriage, the high child mortality rate, early child bearing and child bearing within much of the reproductive life span, and high social values placed on child bearing. Nigeria’s fertility rate has decreased from 6.35 in 1960 to 5.4 in 2019.
The fertility rate in Europe is relatively low, with no country above 2.0 and has declined in recent years. There are several factors that could drive this trend, including socioeconomic incentives to delay child bearing, a decline in the desired number of children, lack of child care and changing gender roles. The highest fertility rate is in Ireland at 1.98, and the lowest in Europe is Moldova at 1.23 The European population replacement rate is 2.1 births per woman, a fertility rate that no European country currently has.
The fertility rate in France is 1.852, and has been steadily declining the past several years. France was once known for, and proud of, having the highest fertility rates in Europe, and the decreasing fertility rate has caused concern for France. They have since prioritized incentives for having children, such as subsidized daycare, special discounts, and cash support payments to families.
Afghanistan’s fertility rate used to be one of the highest in the world at 8.0 in the 1990s. The country’s current fertility rate is 4.55; just over half of what it was in the 1990s. This is like because of more Afghan women receiving and education and getting jobs. After the Taliban was ousted from Afghanistan, NATO countries provided aid that helped fund schools, family planning services and birth control. Additionally, infant mortality rates have also plummeted.
The highest fertility rate in Europe is Ireland’s at 1.98. This rate, however, is still below the population replacement level of 2.1 births per woman. One reason for a decreasing fertility rate in Ireland is the average age of first-time mothers, which is 30.3 years old. Two possible factors that could contribute to the decreased fertility rate in Ireland are the lack of flexible work options and the high childcare costs. These factors are causing women to sacrifice making a family for their careers.
In Italy, the declining fertility rate is causing concern, as it currently sits at 1.33. The average age for first-time mothers in Italy is 31 years old, the highest in Europe. A large reason that women in Italy are not having children is because they are not financially ready to raise a child, and the government doesn’t help with the cost of childcare. The low fertility rate combined with a longer life expectancy has left Italy with a significantly older population (a median age of 45.9 years compared to Europe’s median of 42.8 years).
Although Pakistan’s fertility rate is not among the highest, at 3.55, it is still causing alarm as the country’s population has been growing at a rapid rate and depleting the country’s resources. The rate at which the population is growing has already caused the overcrowding of schools, clinics, and poor communities across Pakistan and is like attributed to a lack of family planning and birth control, among other religious and political influence.
Norway is another European country experiencing falling fertility rates, at 1.68 children per woman. An important factor in Norway for the decrease in childbirths is the increasing age for first-time mothers, which sits at an average of 29.5 years. Additionally, there are fewer larger families. This will harm Norway in the long term, as there will be fewer people of working age to pay the taxes that fund Norway’s welfare systems. Norway is exploring options to encourage childbirth, such as paying a mother in pension savings for each child born.
The worldwide fertility rate is around 2.4 children per woman. This rate is approximately half of what it was in 1950 (4.7) and more economically developed countries have lower rates, such as Australia, most of Europe and South Korea. There are three main factors that have been credited for a decrease in the global fertility rate: fewer deaths in childhood, greater access and use of contraception, and more women are getting an education and joining the workforce. The lower fertility rate can be seen as a good thing for many countries, especially those experiencing overpopulation.
The population replacement rate, the fertility rate needed to maintain a society’s population size, is 2.1 children per woman. Countries with fertilities rates below this number may experience an overall older demographic and a decrease in population size over time.