Number of newborns in Flanders slumped to lowest point in almost 20 years
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Number of newborns in Flanders slumped to lowest point in almost 20 years

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The number of children born in 2020 in Flanders reached its lowest point in almost 20 years, whilst on average the number of children per woman slumped to its lowest point since the start of the century.

The last time so few children were born (63,611 children were born to a mother living in the region in 2020) was in 2003. Over 1,000 fewer babies were born than in 2019, a decrease of 1.7%, a Kind & Gezin report published on Tuesday found. 

The birth rate declined most significantly in the provinces of Limburg and Antwerp, where it slumped by 4 and 3.8% respectively. However, in Flemish Brabant and East Flanders, a slight increase was reported.

Just 1% of the children born in 2020 have a mother younger than 20, and 3.3% of children have a mother older than 40, the same as in 2019.

In March, research found that the total number of babies born in Belgium also declined last year with 11% fewer births in January 2020 in comparison with 2019.

“During the first lockdown, the IVF treatments were stopped. There was fear of coming to the hospital, fear of getting Covid-19 during pregnancy, and economic insecurity,” Gynecologist Bénédicte Denys said, adding that it was “too romantic to think that people who are forced to be at home will suddenly have a child.”

The lockdown does not seem to have caused a baby boom either, as early data does not see an increase in the birth rate in early 2021 either.

Multinational and multilingual

Of all children born in Flanders in 2020, 30.1% were born to a mother who did not have Belgian nationality at birth, a slight increase compared to 2019. The most common foreign birth nationalities are Moroccan, Dutch, and Romanian.

The fertility rate of non-Belgian women is still much higher than that of Belgian women (2.32 versus 1.45) but the difference has again narrowed in 2020 (0.87 versus 1.47 in 2001).

For 30% of newborns in 2020, the language between mother and child is not Dutch. In Flemish Brabant, 45.9% of mothers do not speak Dutch with their child. The most common other languages are French (mostly in Flemish-Brabant), Arabic (West Flanders), and Turkish (in Limburg).

Over the last five years, the percentage of newborn children with a mother under 30 has decreased by almost four percentage points, from 47.7% to 43.8%. The percentage of children born with a mother under 20 was one percent in 2020. Compared to 2019, the proportion of mothers over 40 has remained the same.