The fertility rate and birth rate are used to determine a country's replacement rate and determine countries' development. The fertility rate is the average number of children born to women of childbearing age (15-44 years). Birth rate is the number of live births per 1,000 of the population each year.
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 was to experience age-specific fertility rates and if the woman were to survive through her reproductive childbearing 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 the "total fertility rate." The birth rate is the number of births per 1,000 of a population in a specific area.
According to World Bank Data from 2018, the world's fertility rate was 2.4 children per woman. Sub-Saharan African countries had the highest average fertility rate of 4.7. Least developed countries also have relatively high rates at an average of 4.0.
The vast majority of the countries with the highest fertility rates are in Africa, with Niger topping the list at 6.9 children per woman, followed by Somalia at 6.1 children per woman. Niger also has the highest birth rate in the world of 44.2 births per 1,000 people. The Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, and Chad follow at 5.9, 5.9, and 5.7 children per woman. The North African country of Tunisia has the lowest fertility rate on the continent at 2.1 children per woman. This figure puts it roughly in the middle of the two hundred countries listed.
Two of the most densely populated countries globally – China and India – have fertility rates on the lower-middle part of the scale. At 2.2 children per woman, India ranks at number 94 on the list, while China is much lower at 1.7 children per woman. However, both of these figures are affected by government policies and cultural expectations around reproduction in these countries. South Korea has the lowest fertility rate globally at 1.0 children per woman, closely followed by Singapore and Hong Kong, where there are, on average, 1.1 children per woman.
Nigeria'sNigeria's fertility rate ranks seventh globally, with a 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 fertility rate, early childbearing and childbearing within much of the reproductive life span, and high social values placed on childbearing. Nigeria's fertility rate had 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. Several factors could drive this trend, including socioeconomic incentives to delay childbearing, a decline in the desired number of children, a lack of child care, and changing gender roles. The fertility rate in the overall Euro area is 1.5.
Afghanistan'sAfghanistan'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 4.5; just over half of what it was in the 1990s. This is like because more Afghan women are receiving an 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 France'sFrance's at 1.9. This rate, however, is still below the population replacement level of 2.1 births per woman. France is proud of having the highest fertility rates in Europe. The slowly declining rate is concerning for the country, and the government has prioritized.
In Italy, the declining fertility rate is causing concern, as it currently sits at 1.3. The average age for first-time mothers in Italy is 31 years old, the highest in Europe. A large reason women in Italy do not have children is that they are not financially ready to raise a child, and the government doesn't help with childcare costs. 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'sEurope's median of 42.8 years).
Although Pakistan'sPakistan's fertility rate is not among the highest, at 3.5, it is still causing alarm as the country's population has been growing rapidly 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. It is likely 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 1.6 children per woman. An essential 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'sNorway'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. Three main factors have been credited for a decrease in the global fertility rate: fewer deaths in childhood, greater access to 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.