The fertility rate in Malta dropped to the fourth lowest in the EU, according to the statistics published on Wednesday by Eurostat.

With a fertility rate of 1.37 births per woman in 2016, it lies level with Cyprus, behind Spain and Italy (both 1.34 births per woman) and Portugal (1.36).

The highest rate was in France (1.92 births per woman) and Sweden (1.85), followed by Ireland (1.81).

The statistics revealed that when it comes to the age at which women have their first child, the situation in Malta is at par with that in the EU, where the average was 29 years, compared to 29.1 years here. Across member states, first time mothers were on average the youngest in Bulgaria and the oldest in Italy.

The size of the family has also seen a dramatic decline. In the EU, 82% of woman only have one or two children, with only 12% having three and just 6% having four or more. In Malta, only 13% have three or more children.

Across the EU member states, the highest share of mothers having their fourth or subsequent children was recorded in Finland (10.1%), followed by Ireland (9.0%) and the United Kingdom (8.5%).

• Around 5% of births of first children in the EU in 2016 were to women aged less than 20 (teenage mothers) and around 3% to women aged 40 and over.

• Among the 5.2 million births in the EU in 2016, only 1 in 5 were a third or subsequent child.

• First time mothers were youngest in Bulgaria (26), oldest in Italy (31)

• Around 14% of first children were born to teenage mothers in Bulgaria and Romania

• The highest proportions of births of a first child to women aged 40 and over were registered in Italy (7.2%)

• One out of 10 births in Finland was to a mother who already had at least three children

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