Economic uncertainty may be behind low birth rate. / SUR

The birth rate across Malaga is in free fall with fewer than a thousand babies born per month

Only 5,859 babies were born in the province's hospitals in the first half of the year, while mortality recorded a striking increase of 9 per cent over last year

NURIA TRIGUERO

In the first half of the year Malaga has seen the birth rate, dropping below one thousand births per month. Between January and June, 5,859 babies were born in Malaga hospitals, according to provisional estimates published by the National Statistics Institute (INE). This is equivalent to an average of 976 births per month. The month in which the most children were born was March, with 1,072, and February the least, with 882.

These estimates indicate that the fall in the birth rate in Malaga, far from moderating, is accelerating its pace. Between the first half of this year and the previous one, there has been a decrease of 2.87 per cent (equivalent to 173 fewer births). In the same period of 2021 the drop was 2.84 per cent and in 2020, 2.65 per cent .

This persistence makes it necessary to rule out the 'pandemic effect': some attributed the drop in births in 2020 and 2021 to the postponement of the decision to have children for fear of Covid-19, but this year's new decline can no longer be attributed such fears. Soaring inflation and the climate of economic uncertainty caused by the war in Ukraine are likely factors weighing against couples' decisions to have children.

At the Andalusian level, the average drop in births in the first half of the year was slightly lower than in Malaga, at 2.62 per cent. There are strong differences between provinces: Seville and Huelva have suffered falls of more than 6 per cent, while Cadiz and Granada have escaped the fall. At the national level, a very slight increase in births was recorded, 0.13 per cent (211 more children born than in the first half of 2021), which conceals marked contrasts between regions. The birth rate has increased in Asturias, Madrid, Valencia, Catalonia and Castilla y León, falling in the other autonomous communities.

Mothers

The decline in the birth rate goes hand in hand with another related demographic trend: the increase in the age at which women in Malaga have children. In five years, the percentage of children born to mothers over 35 years of age has increased from 36 per cent to 42 per cent in the province. There are 16 per cent more mothers between 40 and 44 years old than five years ago (579 in the first half of 2022, compared to 497 in the same period of 2017) and 30 per cent more between 45 and 49. In fact, these are the only age groups in which the birth rate has increased in this five-year period, during which the total number of births has plummeted by almost 14 per cent in the province. Babies born to mothers between 25 and 29 years of age have gone from representing 20 per cent of the total to 17 per cent, and those in the next age group, 30 to 34, from 34 per cent to 32 per cent.

Deaths

The INE also published, on Wednesday, 17 August, the estimate of deaths for the first 30 weeks of the year. In the province in that period, 9,295 deaths have been recorded, which is almost 9 per cent more than on the same dates in 2021. This is an all-time mortality record that even exceeds the records of 2020 (8,076) and 2021 (8,532), the years marked by the coronavirus pandemic.

The statistic, which is provisional, offers no clues as to the causes of the sharp increase in mortality, which is more intense in the province than that of the national level where there is a 5.1 per cent increase. Compared with 2019, the year prior to the pandemic, the increase in deaths recorded by Malaga is 23 per cent, the highest in the whole country.

The INE estimates show deaths of very old people have 'fueled' the sharp increase in mortality. In the first 30 weeks of this year, 1,259 deaths of people over 90 years of age have been recorded, which is 205 more than in the same period last year (up 19 per cent) and 412 more than in the same period of 2019.