Sweden's Astonishing Fertility
Western European countries, after having recorded a large recovery in fertility after the Second World War (baby boom), saw their fertility rate drop from the mid-sixties on and, within ten years, to a level well under the 2.1 children per woman necessary to renew the population. This drop started first and simultaneously in Western and Northern Europe and ten years later but in a particularly drastic and sharp fashion, in Southern Europe.
In this general context of low European fertility, between 1985 and 1990 the rise in the current fertility indicator observed in Sweden was especially spectacular. Is it a purely circumstantial phenomenon or the beginning of a more or less medium term counter trend, likely to spread across the whole of Europe? Or could it have been the result of an especially effective profamily policy which could become an example for other European countries?
G. Calot and J.P. Sardon present the most recent available data indicating that the recovery in the fertility indicator from 1.6 to 2.1 per woman, as observed between 1985 and 1990, has been followed by a decline at least as big and even more rapid, since this indicator will likely be below 1.6 in 1996. They analyze the stages of the ebb and flow in relation to the age of the mother and birth order. They examine the role which could in fact be played by the adoption of measures - mainly parental leave - allowing women to better balance family and work life. Even if this role has been important, other factors must have played a part since changes in the legislation regarding parental leave are not sufficient to explain the fact that all categories of women have been affected by the observed ebb and flow.
Sweden, which thirty years ago was among one of the least fertile of European countries, may distinguish itself more by the stability of its final outcome through the generations than by the variability of its current fertility indicator as observed through the years. While the second contraceptive revolution has led to a decrease in the final number of children by about one per two women in almost all of Europe. This number has not varied much in Sweden between female generations born in 1930 and in 1960. Finally, for those of the 60's, Swedish fertility is one of the lowest of the continent.