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Baby Blues: Finland's Fertility Rate Hits 150-year Low

The number of births in Finland hit a 150-year low in 2015, recently released figures show. Researchers blame the economic crisis, high unemployment and a growing sense of uncertainty as primary reasons why people are choosing to have fewer children.

The Finnish fertility rate is in decline, according to new figures from Statistics Finland. Last year 55,472 children were born, which is 1,760 fewer than in 2014. This last time this few children were born in Finland happened in 1868. At that time, Finland was harrowed by famine, which caused a dramatic decline in birth rates, as some 270,000 people died of starvation.

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The number of births is reported to have dropped for five years straight, with the decline reaching its peak in the rural provinces of Kainuu and Ostrobothnia. In Kainuu, the birth rate corresponds to an average of 1.68 children born per woman over her lifespan, down from 1.98 the previous year. In Central Ostrobothnia the rate fell from 2.32 children per woman to 2.01 children.

Some Finish couples postpone having children or go without children altogether, whereas others have fewer children both in comparison to earlier generations or than originally planned. The percentage of childless women over 35 years of age has risen by roughly 10 percent over the last 20 years. About 20 percent of these women are forecast to remain childless for their entire lives. Among men in the same age bracket, the childless percentage is already at over 40 percent.

Anneli Miettinen, a researcher at the Family Federation of Finland, states that lower birthrates are not typical of Finland alone, but rather are a trend which is seen across vast parts of Europe.

"Especially in central Europe and German-speaking countries, fertility rates have been running at under 1.5 or 1.4 children per woman. In comparison to them, we are actually in a fairly good position," Miettinen told Finland's national broadcaster Yle on Monday.

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According to Miettinen, economic uncertainty is to blame above all. High unemployment rates and concerns about a secure future have kept Finns' enthusiasm for large families in check. Miettinen called on the government to encourage people to have more children, but at the same time advised against further austerity measures, which are suspected to dissuade Finns from multiplying.

Notably, Family Federation revealed how Finns' perception of an "ideal" number of children has changed over the years. For decades, two or three children were considered perfect, whereas recent surveys indicate that a majority would rather settle for two. A growing number of people say one or even none is enough.

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