It looks more like a trend than a blip: the Office of National Statistics reports that fertility rates in 2006 in England and Wales were at their highest for 26 years. The reason is that older mothers, and women born outside of the UK, are having more children.

The figures are provisional but they show that an average number of children per woman (“total fertility rate”) in 2006 of 1.87 children per woman in England and Wales. This is the fifth successuve annual increase, from a low in 2001 of 1.63.

The two significant changes in the data is, first, the continuing increase in the number of women over 40 giving birth: now 11.4 per thousand women, doubled since 1986. And second, the increased proportion of births to women born outside the UK, representing 21.9% of birth in 2006 compared with 12.8% a decade ago.

Obviously it’s still below the replacement rate (2.1), and here European comparisons are interesting:

  • France 1.9
  • England and Wales 1.87
  • Germany 1.37
  • Italy 1.33
  • Spain 1.32
  • Greece 1.29