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The UK birth rate has fallen dramatically – why does this matter?

Figures from the Office for National Statistics released in August this year revealed that not only is the UK birth rate falling – it has hit its lowest level since records began in 1938.

In 2018 there were in total 657,076 live births in England and Wales – a figure that is down 3.2% from the previous year, is the fewest since 2005, and which represents a fall of 10% from 2012.

The ONS report said that the total fertility rate stood at 1.7 children per woman, which is lower than all years except 1977 and 1999 to 2002.

But why is this happening?

There are currently several theories being considered as reasons in our decline in fertility. The first is that those in their 20s and 30s are postponing having children because of practical reasons as they wait until they are more financially secure or until they are with the ‘right’ partner.

Before 2004, women between the ages of 25 to 29 generally had the highest fertility rate, but for the past 15 years women aged 30 to 34 have taken the lead. The latest figures show that fertility rates have decreased in all age groups except for women aged 40 years and over, where the rate remained at 16.1 births per 1,000 women of this age.

Fertility rates for women under the age of 20 have decreased since the turn of the century. Greater access to contraception and the fact that there are more women in education and work are both contributing factors.

But so is the fact that some women, including young ones, are making a conscious decision not to go down the childbearing route. Austerity, economic uncertainty, and most recently eco-anxiety, have all been cited as reasons for this, with the Birth Strike movement – a group of women ‘going on strike’ from having babies because of the fear of climate change – starting up at the end of 2018.

So why does this matter?

The combination of a falling birth rate and longer life expectancy means that the UK will inevitably become an increasingly aged nation. With fewer people coming into the workforce, and those in the workforce working for longer, there will be a greater reliance on technology for support.

The combination of a falling birth rate and longer life expectancy means that the UK will inevitably become an increasingly aged nation. #futuretrends Click To Tweet

Equally, with fewer young people around to care for the older ones, housing will need to be specifically designed to enable people to live independently at home for as long as possible.

Technology will be a significant factor in this, but the development of more inclusive kitchen and bathroom products to enhance accessible living is vital. These are the two areas of the home that create the most challenges for the less independently mobile, from both a functional and a safety point of view.

There is no doubt that this will be a burgeoning market for many years to come – while much imaginative inclusive design has already been produced in the KBB sector, our need for further development in this area has never been more pressing.

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