Malta has the lowest fertility rate in Europe at 1.13 live births per woman, according to Eurostat data published on Thursday.

This is significantly lower than the EU average of 1.53 births per woman.

The data tracks births around Europe until 2021. In total, just over 4 million babies were born throughout the year, a slight increase over 2020.

Malta’s fertility rate has been on a downward trend since 2012, when it stood at 1.42, with particularly sharp decreases between 2017 and 2019.

On the other hand, the EU-wide fertility rate has remained steady over this period, recording only marginal changes throughout the past decade.

The data also found that the average age at which women give birth is climbing and now stands at just under 31, compared to under 30 in 2012.

Speaking to Times of Malta, demography expert Maya Miljanic Brinkworth described the decline in Malta’s fertility rate as “rather swift”, noting that “it should not be expected to continue with the previously observed tempo”.

“The likelihood is that it will first stabilise due to behavioural factors before it can start slowly gaining higher ground again. This will depend on the availability of work-life balance and family-friendly measures and their takeup by both men and women in Malta," she said.

Work-life balance

Maritime lawyer Ann Fenech recently told Times of Malta that the government should incentivise employers to allow women to have the option to take their children to work.

This would encourage more women to continue pursuing their careers after having children.

Speaking on Women’s Day, Marisa Xuereb, president at The Malta Chamber, called for a change in the current culture where you have to “work 50 to 60 hours a week to make it to the next level”, arguing that women “want to save some time for their family and other responsibilities” are unable to advance beyond middle management.

Last year, lobbyists criticised the government’s bare-bones implementation of the EU Work-Life Balance Directive, arguing that it “will increase the caring gap between women and men”.

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