Number of babies born in Switzerland falls to lowest level in 20 years
New data from the Swiss Federal Statistical Office has revealed that the birth rate in the alpine nation fell to its lowest level in 20 years in 2022. After a small baby boom caused largely by the COVID pandemic, the number of people giving birth in Switzerland has fallen back down to well below the European average.
Swiss birth rate slumps after COVID baby boom
In 2022, 82.371 births were registered in Switzerland, a drop of 8,5 percent compared to 2021 when the birth rate reached heights unseen since 1972 - a phenomenon largely attributed to the pandemic. The FSO noted that there were only 9,3 new birth certificates issued per 1.000 inhabitants last year, the lowest level recorded in 20 years.
The total birth rate (the number of live births per woman of childbearing age), also fell to 1,39 children per woman, significantly lower than the European average of 1,5. According to the FSO, around 25 percent of the female population is yet to have children.
Number of factors to blame for low birth rate
Speaking to RTS, family specialist from the University of Lausanne, Valérie-Anne Ryser, said that the declining birth rate can be blamed on a number of factors. For one, the rate in 2022 could be "cyclical" or a reaction to the higher rates seen the year before - in short, most of the people who wanted to have babies had them in 2021.
However, unlike other nations where unemployment and economic uncertainty have been blamed for declining birth rates, Ryser noted that with the Swiss economy continuing to improve, the lower birth rate is likely due to official policy and cost. Specifically, she took aim at the maternity and paternity leave system in Switzerland, which she noted is “extremely recent and… is very short by comparison to the rest of Europe.”
Swiss women need more support in raising children, expert argues
In addition, she argued that higher costs for childcare and fewer possibilities for paternal leave make it harder for Swiss women to reconcile work and family life. Ryser said that Switzerland maintains a very traditional view with regard to women's role in society, and that “if we had a policy where we promoted paternity leave and a parental leave, we could divide the task a little between the two members of the couple," she added.
Finally, Ryser said that the declining birth rate could have been caused by a deliberate decision by women to not have children, noting that what it means to be a "couple" is constantly evolving, with many choosing to substitute having a child with other things, pets or pastimes.
In her opinion, there are three groups who choose to not have children: “women who will decide not to have children because they are happy in their relationship…and there is no place for the child”, “[women] for whom having a child is not something essential” and “women who will judge that we have a society that is far too violent and that the conditions are not healthy to have a child in a world that is not going so well.”