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Fertility and late-comer mothers
In 2013 the mean age of EU women at birth of their first child was 28.8 years. By 2019 it has reached 29.4 years. The increase in mean age has swept across the length and breadth of the EU during the 2001-2019 period. The highest increases, of around 4 years, were in Estonia and Lithuania, while the lowest increases of around 1 year were in France and Sweden.

Talking about fertility, in 2021, the average age of women at the birth of their first child in the EU has jumped to 29.7 years. Spanish women were one of the oldest first-time mothers. The largest number of women giving birth for the first time at 40+ years is found in Spain. Spain is not an isolated case. Aging mothers and scanty childbirth are the rule, not the exception, in the EU.

In 2019, the oldest first-time mothers (30 years old and over) were located in Italy (31.3 years), Spain and Luxembourg (both 31.1), Ireland (30.7), Greece (30.6), the Netherlands (30.1) and Cyprus (30.0). The youngest first-time mothers were observed in Bulgaria (26.3 years), Romania (26.9), Slovakia (27.2), Latvia (27.3) and Poland (27.6).

By 2021, the average age of women at the birth of their first child in the EU has jumped to 29.7 years, ranging from 26.5 years in Bulgaria to 31.6 in Italy and Spain.

Here’s the new forty-something scene: One way to analyze fertility trends is to look at the share of live births of mothers over 40 in total live births in a year. In the EU, this share has more than doubled between 2001 and 2019, from 2.4 % in 2001 to 5.4 % in 2019. This is an across-the-board occurrence, happening in all Member States. In 2019, the largest share of mothers over 40 was found in Spain (10 % of all live births), followed by Italy (8.9 %), Greece (8.4 %), Ireland (7.9 %) and Portugal (7.8 %). The lowest share of mothers over 40 was found in Romania and Slovakia (both 3.2 %).


Increased life expectancy for all. . .

An increase of 3.7 years in life expectancy between 2002 and 2019

Men and women in the EU enjoy increased longevity. But less for the men.

The population in the EU is aging and one reason is rising life expectancy – the population lives longer and longer. Life expectancy at birth soared during the last century due to factors such as reductions in infant mortality, rising living standards, improved lifestyles and better education, and advances in healthcare and medicine.

In 2002, men and women’s life expectancy at birth in the EU was 77.6 years, rising to 81.3 in 2019, a growth of 3.7 years. All Member States experienced the change, with increases of age from 70.9 in 2001 to 78.6 in 2020 in Estonia, from 77.2 in 2001 to 82.8 in 2019 in Ireland, and from 70.2 in 2002 to 75.7 in 2020 Latvia.

(Exceptionality:  The COVID-19 pandemic broke the steady trend toward rising life expectancy. Provisional estimates for 2020 show that life expectancy has gone down in all Member States as a result of the pandemic.)


. . . But women live longer
In the EU in 2019, life expectancy at birth for women was 84.0 years and 78.5 for men, a difference of 5.5 years. This was true in all Member States with the largest differences in 2020 in Lithuania (women: 80.0, men: 70.1, a difference of 9.9 years), Latvia (women: 80.1, men: 70.9, a difference of 9.2 years) and Estonia (women: 82.7, men: 74.2, a difference of 8.5 years).

The highest life expectancy is found among women.

Years earlier, the difference in life expectancy at birth between men and women in the EU in 2002 was 6.6 years. In 2001, the biggest differences between the genders were already found in the Baltic states: Lithuania (a dufference of 11.5 years), 11.4 years in Latvia, and 11.3 in Estonia.

In 2020, the highest life expectancy at birth for women was estimated to be in France (85.3 years), Spain (85.1 years), and Finland (85.0). The lowest was in Bulgaria (77.5 years), Romania (78.4), and Hungary (79.1). For men, the highest life expectancy at birth was estimated to be in Malta (80.8 years), Sweden (80.7), Cyprus (80.3), and Italy (80.1). Bulgartia has the lowest (69.9 years), Lithuania (70.1), Romania (70.5), and Latvia (70.9).


Ed’s note: After the above-cited Eurostat numbers, it would be but logical to conclude that while life expectancy in the EU is good news, another good news, which is about women’s ability to choose the age at which they would like to mother their children, is a mixed blessing. Over the past several years, women have apparently chosen not only to put motherhood on hold as long as they wanted to, but also to have been opting for an “insufficient” number of children when they finally decide to have them. In so doing, Europe has become incapacitated to keep its population constant, bearing in mind that to keep the size of the population stable in advanced countries, women must each give birth to 2.1 children. (See “EU SERIES: Can Europe Maintain the Size of Its Population Without Outside Help?”). It may well fall to third-country immigrants to resettle in Europe and keep a steady population there!

Some stats (Source)

  • EU inhabitants as of today: 446.7 million, of whom 23.8 million are non-EU citizens (5.3% of EU’s total population).
  • In 2022, 9.93 million non-EU citizens were employed in the EU, out of 193.5 million people aged 20  to 64 years (5.1% of the total working-age population).
  • Immigrants will have to come to Europe’s rescue?

    As of 2021 2.25 million people immigrated to the EU; 1.12 million people emigrated from the EU.
    Net immigration to the EU = 1.14 million people

  • Refugees: Since Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine in February 2022, Europe has received the largest number of people fleeing war since World War II.
    At the end of 2021, less than 10% of all the world’s refugees and only a fraction of internally displaced persons were living in the EU. By the end of 2022, as a result of the war in Ukraine, the EU’s share of refugees went up to more than 20%.
    The refugees living in the EU were 1.5% of EU’s total population.


Images (Edited Pixabay vectors)
Featured image/Gordon Johnson
Woman/Gordon Johnson
Race between woman and man/Mohamed Hassan