SANTIAGO – Chilean women went from having an average of five children each in 1950 to fewer than two apiece in 2007, the National Statistics Institute, or INE, said Thursday in a report.
The 2007 fertility rate of 1.8 children per woman is slightly below the level needed to maintain Chile’s population, which reached 17 million last month, the INE said.
One reflection of the sharp fall in the birth rate is the reduction of the proportion of Chileans 14 and under, from 28.4 percent in 2000 to 23.8 percent in 2007.
Conversely, the ratio of seniors – people over 60 – to children rose from 48 per 100 in 2006 to 51 per 100 the following year, according to the INE figures.
Men’s life expectancy improved from 72.5 years in 2000 to 74.7 years in 2007, while women’s rose from 78.5 years to 80.2 years over the same period.
Florencia Herrera, a scholar at Diego Portales University, said that the rising cost of living is a factor in the declining birth rate.
“We live in a society that leaves women unprotected in the decision to have children and it’s obvious that the economic issue is present,” she told La Tercera newspaper.
Parents, she said, fear that having a second child will reduce their ability to fully provide for their first-born.
Herrera said the Chilean government could adopt some of the economic incentives offered by wealthy European nations to encourage larger families, but that such an effort would have to be maintained over the long term to have an effect. EFE