Birth rate in Switzerland falls dramatically to lowest level since 2007
According to new data from the Federal Statistical Office (FSO), the number of babies born in Switzerland has declined to levels unseen since 2007. The decline in registered births has been blamed on COVID, with politicians now calling for an awareness campaign to boost the birth rate.
Drop in birth rate in Switzerland caused by COVID, say experts
After the COVID lockdown caused a baby boom in Switzerland in 2021, the latest data has shown that only 51.302 babies were born in the alpine nation between January and August 2022, the lowest number recorded for the same period since 2007. Compared with last year, there were 8.483 fewer Swiss birth certificates issued, a trend also seen in birth rates in Germany and the Netherlands.
According to the Head of Research at the Institute for Midwives at ZHAW, Susanne Grylka, the emergence of the Delta variant of COVID was the main reason for fewer pregnancies in Switzerland. “Unvaccinated women sometimes had very severe courses [of COVID]. The combination of pregnancy and COVID was suddenly associated with fear,” she told 20 minuten, although was quick to stress that COVID vaccination is proven to have no effect on fertility.
She predicted that the low birth rate is likely to continue until 2023. "We are generally in uncertain times and so I would not expect a record year for next year either," she concluded.
Decline in birth rate spark concerns about funding for AHV and pensions
While the drop in the birth rate may be blamed on temporary factors, the new data from the FSO has sparked debate about how Switzerland will able to afford its AHV, pension and social security programmes with fewer people working and more residents in retirement. Ben Jann from the University of Bern noted that women in Switzerland now only have 1,5 children on average and that so far, immigration has been used to compensate for the lack of new Swiss workers.
According to Simone Gretler from the Department of Social Work in Lucerne, many people in Switzerland are choosing to build a family of friends, rather than a family with marriage and children. "The World Health Organisation estimates that by 2050 there will be more people over the age of 65 than under the age of 15. The current system can no longer be continued in the future - new solutions are needed here," he concluded.
Swiss politicians call for cheaper childcare services
The debate over the decline in births has also made it into the halls of power. “Without immigration, we will be in an extreme situation in the near future in terms of the shortage of workers in the health and pension systems… I call on the federal government to launch an awareness campaign," demanded National Councillor Elisabeth Schneider-Schneiter. Speaking to 20 minuten, she said that the decline in births should be placed at the top of the political agenda.
National Councillor Katharina Prelicz-Huber agreed that while something has to be done to boost the birth rate, funding for social services should not be the reason why. She called for better assistance for mothers and fathers, such as cheaper access to Swiss daycare services, flexible working contracts and longer maternity leave for expectant mothers, as already many “Swiss couples think twice about bringing one or more children into the world."