Britain Facing “Baby Shortage” That Could Doom The Economy

Jesse Williams

By Jesse Williams

Jesse Williams

21 Sep 2021

An “alarming” dip in fertility rates paired with an ageing population has the UK sleep walking into future “economic stagnation”, a think tank has warned. 

The long-term trend found by the Social Market Foundation (SMF) suggest that people are having fewer children which could leave the UK with fewer workers, a weaker economy and unsustainable public finances. 

Last year the Britain’s birthrate sat at 1.58, well below the 2.1 replacement level needed to keep the population rate stable, and in Scotland it was even lower at 1.29.

SMF said the demographic outlook for Britain should spark public and political debate about the scope for government policies to help people who want to have more children to do so.  

They called on ministers to set up a cross-government taskforce to consider the issue, with better childcare provision being a point of emphasis.

“At present, there are a little under three over-65s for every 10 workers, but by the middle of the next decade that ratio will rise to 3.5, and by the 2060s the number will be closing in on four,” the report said.

“According to these projections, by 2050 a quarter of Britons will be over 65, up from a fifth today.

“This combination of a lower share of the population in work and a higher share in need of economic support clearly has a negative effect on the productive capacity of the economy.”

The issue of a ageing workforce seems to be global one with countries like France, resorting to a “birth grant” worth €950 (£810) to combat the issue. Or take China finally easing up on its 1 child per household rule earlier this year.

Dr Aveek Bhattacharya, the chief economist at the SMF said: “The question of whether the government should intervene to try to increase the birthrate is clearly a sensitive topic that must be delicately handled,”

“However, given the alarming fall in fertility rates, and the risks that population ageing poses to our social and economic wellbeing, it is a discussion we should not duck.”