Half of women in England and Wales are childless until their 30th birthday, according to official figures, as they delay childbirth more due to greater labor market participation and rising levels of education.
About 50% of women in 2020 did not give birth until they were in their thirties, a record level since the beginning of data collection in 1920, according to the National Statistics Office on Thursday.
Amanda Scharfman, an ONS statistician, said she had seen “lower fertility rates in those now in their twenties”, a trend that shows fewer women having children in this age group than reduction of biological fertility – is “likely to continue”.
The data show that the most common age for giving birth to women in England and Wales is 31, compared to 22 for their mothers. In contrast, in 1941, only 18% of 30-year-olds were not mothers.
“Thirty are no longer old for parenthood, they are middle-aged,” said Bernice Quang, a researcher at the University of Southampton, noting that women delay childbirth for a variety of reasons, including long-term trends such as women’s education and labor market engagement.
Other factors in reducing the birth rate include a lack of stable jobs, adequate housing and difficulties in accessing affordable childcare services, she added.
Quang noted that many women still want a family with two children. “So there is a difference between what people would like and what they are able to achieve, which suggests that there is a point where there can be political interference.
Shirin Kanji, a professor of work and organization at Brunel University, said raising the age of mothers could challenge parents ‘and grandparents’ reliance on childcare.
Currently, the role of grandparents is “very important” in maintaining mothers’ participation in the workforce, she added.
The trend is similar in the most developed economies, with the average birth rate in Europe rising from 27.6 years in 2000 to 30 years in 2020 – the highest of all continents – according to UN forecasts for the world population. However, women in the United Kingdom have children slightly older than the European average.
ONS data also show that the proportion of women left childless in 2020 has remained relatively constant since the late 1950s at around 18%, suggesting that women delay childbirth instead of to have no children.
Quang said the birth rate in the United Kingdom is falling and some ONS data show that it reached a record low in 2020, mainly as a result of people having smaller families.
Earlier in January, the ONS predicted that the UK’s natural population would begin to decline by the middle of the decade. It is estimated that by 2045, the number of people aged 85 and over will double to almost 3.1 million – 4.3 percent of the population – while the number of people of retirement age will reach more than 15 million.