Childlessness doubles as career women put off starting family until ‘too late’

Childlessness doubles as career women put off starting family until ‘too late’

Middle aged women in Britain today are twice as likely to be childless as the previous generation – in part because of career pressure to put off starting a family until it is “too late”, an official study shows.

Research by the Office for National Statistics shows a dramatic rise in the number of women reaching middle age without having children between the generation born during the Second World War and that born at the end of the baby-boom period.

An analysis of birth records also suggests that the trend is likely to be even more pronounced among the current generation of younger women.

The ONS singled out changes in the workplace within a generation among the possible explanations, including the idea that many couples postpone decisions until after it is physically possible.

But the study also points to tentative signs that a steady decline in the size of families over recent decades the trend could be going into reverse.

It found that women who turned 30 last year had slightly more children on average than those born in the 1970s.

The ONS said this could be a result of the introduction of new family tax credits and paternity leave rights introduced under Labour.

The study, which draws on birth registrations in England and Wales up until last year, shows that just under one in five women born in 1967, who were 45 last year, are childless.

By contrast only one in 10 of woman born in 1940 were in the same position.

The study also found evidence that, despite the soaring birth rate in Britain, the current generation of young career women are even more likely to go through life without having children than in the past.

Overall 45 per cent of those who turned 30 last year had no children. By contrast just over four in 10 of those born in 1967 reached the age of 30 without having children.

In a commentary the ONS said: “A wide range of explanations relating to circumstances and choices have been put forward for the increasing childlessness seen in recent cohorts. “These include the decline in the proportion of women married, changes in the perceived

costs and benefits of child rearing versus work and leisure activities, greater social acceptability of the child-free lifestyle and the postponement of decisions about whether to have children until it may be biologically too late.”

John Bingham

The Telegraph, 5th December 2013

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