11 Mar, 2024 @ 17:30
3 mins read

No dishes no baby: Spain’s shocking fertility rate linked to men’s reluctance to help out around the house – but what’s behind the demographic time bomb?

THE refusal by men in Spain to chip in with the housework has been linked to the country’s shockingly low birth rate – the second lowest in Europe. 

Spain recorded just 1.16 live births per woman in 2022, according to new figures by the EU’s statistics agency Eurostat.

And while a number of theories have been put forward to explain this statistic, it has not gone unnoticed that just 30% of household chores in Spain are done by men.

A study from 2022 found a correlation between countries where men contributed little towards daily chores and low fertility rates.

While in Poland men do only 21% of the housework, their birth rate sits at 1.29 live births per woman, well below the EU average of 1.46.

In the Czech Republic, the figure is even lower – men do 18% of the chores, although their birth rate manages to hover around the EU average.

Japan and South Korea also score very lowly in both metrics, along with Hungary and Slovakia.

fertility rates and house work chart
The data shows a clear if generalised correlation between countries where men chip in more with the housework and where the birth rates are higher

They are all made to look slack by fertility champions Iceland and Sweden, whose men do between 40 and 50% of the chores and boast fertility rates well above the average.  

However it is not a flawless theory, with France posting the highest fertility rate in the EU (1.79) while their men actually do less housework than in Spain (28%).

The country with the lowest birthrate in Europe is Malta, with just 1.06 children per woman.

Spain posted the second lowest birth rate in the EU in 2022, with just 1.16 live births per woman

As well as its flatlining fertility rate, Spain also has the second highest ‘mean age’ at childbirth, at 31 years and seven months – beaten out by Italy, where the mean age at birth is 31 years and eight months.

The stats point towards an impending demographic crisis for Spain, as its fertility rate is just half of the ‘replacement rate’ needed to avoid a dwindling population and economic slowdown.

However, it’s a gloomy future that threatens all of the EU, with the average birth rate across the 27 countries being just 1.46 and the mean age of mothers at birth being 31 years and one month.

Candidate EU member Albania had the lowest mean age in Europe at 27. 

Economic uncertainty has also been blamed for a reluctant to have children
In regions where unemployment is extra high there is some correlation with lower birth rates
Spain boasts the second highest rate of temporary contracts for workers in Europe, which also increases economic uncertainty

The mean age for a first-born child is just shy of 30 years across the economic bloc.

This trend is mirrored in the number of live births, with 2022 witnessing a significant drop to 3.88 million children born in the EU – a stark contrast to the 6.8 million births recorded in the peak year of 1964.

This decline in birth rates is not a new phenomenon in Spain. Fertility rates have been steadily dropping since the 1970s, due to a complex interplay of social and economic factors.

Many other theories have been put forward to explain Spain’s – and Europe’s in general – declining birth rates.

More Births, a group which describes itself as dedicated to coming up with ‘ideas for reversing the collapse in global fertility, the greatest challenge of our age’, blamed shifting social values, economic uncertainty, a lack of affordable housing and work-life balance concerns for the steep decline. 

Younger generations in Spain are prioritising education, careers, and travel over starting families at a young age, they suggested.

Spain has one of the highest rates of young people living with their parents

This is especially so as women’s participation in the workforce and pay rates start to gradually even out against men’s.

On top of this, marriage rates have declined in Spain and Italy, and the average age of marriage has shifted into the 30s, aligning with a period when fertility begins to wane. 

Meanwhile, Spain’s economic struggles over the past decade, including high youth unemployment still above 25% and precarious work conditions.

“Spain leads all of Europe with nearly 18% of work contracts being temporary, and it is disproportionately young people in temp jobs,” More Births wrote on Twitter.

“A second cause of low birthrates is ‘failure to launch.’ An astonishing 47% of young people in Italy ages 25-34, the prime childbearing years, live with their parents!

With people choosing to get married, settle down and have kids later in life they often end up doing it in a period of life when woman’s fertility rate has naturally decreased

They also cited the dwindling influence of the Catholic Church, with ‘non-believers accounting for more than half of young people between the ages of 18 and 38 (57%).’ 

Another trend is the soaring cost of housing, particularly in major cities, makes it challenging for young couples to find adequate living space to raise a family.

More Births also listed Spain’s long working hours and limited access to affordable childcare, which make it difficult for both parents to balance work and family life.

The long-term consequences of Spain’s declining birth rate are concerning. 

A shrinking population can lead to labour shortages, increased strain on social services including healthcare, and a slowdown in economic growth and a reduction in living standards.

Walter Finch

Walter - or Walt to most people - is a former and sometimes still photographer and filmmaker who likes to dig under the surface.
A NCTJ-trained journalist, he came to the Costa del Sol - Gibraltar hotspot from the Daily Mail in 2022 to report on organised crime, corruption, financial fraud and a little bit of whatever is going on.
Got a story? [email protected]

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Angry patient throws computer at female doctor who would not sign him off work in latest medical assault in Spain's Murcia
Previous Story

Nurse in Spain is kicked so hard in the testicles he dies – as figures show attacks on doctors are soaring 

Next Story

‘Biological remains’ were found in Madrid flat of missing US expat Ana Maria Knezevich, as sixth week of disappearance approaches

Latest from Lead

Go toTop

More From The Olive Press