Fertility Rates

According to the 1998 Revision of the official United Nations population estimates and projection, the total fertility rate (TFR) is estimated to be, in 1995-2000, at or below the level of 2.1 children per woman in 61 countries or areas of the world (Table 1) – that is, in 10 more than in 1990-1995. The combined population of those 61 countries (2.6 billion in 1998) amounts to 44 per cent of the global population.

Table 1. Total fertility rates in countries
with below-replacement fertility

Range of total fertility rates in 1995-2000
2.10 - 1.80
Sri Lanka


Iceland 2.10
TFYR Macedonia 2.06
Dem. People's Rep. of Korea 2.05
Cyprus 2.03
New Zealand 2.01
Azerbaijan 1.99
United States of America 1.99
Georgia 1.92
Mauritius 1.91
Ireland 1.90
Guadeloupe 1.90
Malta 1.89
Norway 1.85
Yugoslavia 1.84
China 1.80
Range of total fertility rates in 1995-2000
1.79 - 1.50
Australia 1.79
Republic of Moldova 1.76
Martinique 1.75
Thailand 1.74
Finland 1.73
Denmark 1.72
United Kingdom 1.72
France 1.71
Armenia 1.70
Singapore 1.68
Luxembourg 1.67
Republic of Korea 1.65
Trinidad and Tobago 1.65
Sweden 1.57
Croatia 1.56
Belgium 1.55
Cuba 1.55
Canada 1.55
Poland 1.53
Netherlands 1.50
Barbados 1.50
Range of total fertility rates in 1995-2000
Less than 1.50
Switzerland 1.47
Japan 1.43
Lithuania 1.42
Austria 1.41
Macau 1.40
Slovakia 1.39
Ukraine 1.38
Hungary 1.37
Portugal 1.37
Belarus 1.36
Bosnia and Herzegovina 1.35
Russian Federation 1.34
China, Hong Kong SAR 1.32
Germany 1.30
Estonia 1.28
Greece 1.28
Slovenia 1.26
Latvia 1.25
Bulgaria 1.23
Italy 1.20
Czeck Republic 1.19
Romania 1.17
Spain 1.15

In practically all countries of the more developed regions fertility is significantly below the level necessary for the replacement of generations (TFR of approximately 2.1).  In 20 of the more developed countries the TFR has stayed at below-replacement level for at least two decades.  In the 1980s-1990s fertility has decreased to levels below replacement in several countries from the less developed regions, including all countries in the populous region of Eastern Asia (except Mongolia).  Rapid fertility transition in South-eastern Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean brings an increasing number of developing countries close to that threshold: currently the TFR is below 3 (but higher than 2.1) and decreasing in 34 countries with a combined population of 930 million people.

While fertility decline constitutes the only cause of the deceleration of world population growth and the major reason for population ageing, its impact varies across regions and countries – depending essentially on the speed and depth of the demographic transition. According to the medium variant of the 1998 Revision, a very slow and decelerating population growth in Northern Europe during the first quarter of the 21st century will be followed by steady population decrease in 2025-2050; however, the region will be confined to a relatively small (4 per cent) population loss. Western Europe will start experiencing negative population growth earlier and its population will shrink by 6.5 per cent. Populations of Eastern and Southern Europe will be decreasing during the entire projection period at a high and accelerating pace; by the mid-century they are expected to lose 18 and 20 per cent of their 1998 sizes, respectively. On the contrary, the populations of Eastern Asia, Northern America and Australia/New Zealand are projected to keep growing; their respective increases by 2050 will be 15, 29 and 39 percent. Among the 61 countries with below-replacement fertility, 30 will experience population declines ranging from 1 per cent in Yugoslavia to 35 per cent in Estonia, whereas in 31 countries populations will continue increasing, due to their young population structures and to immigration.