In order to reverse the trend of declining fertility rates, many countries in Europe are offering free or subsidized in vitro fertilization treatments. The effects of the effort are small, but they do indeed seem to be helping according to The Associated Press.
In order to maintain a population, fertility rates must hover at or above 2.1 per woman. Fertility rates are the estimated average number of children a woman may have in her reproductive lifetime.
Five million children have been born from assisted fertilization since the world's first in 1978.
An aging population is also more taxing for health care, pensions – and fewer workers to help pay for them – and the effects can be devastating to a country’s economy. In 2002, European fertility rates hovered at 1.45. In 2009, it was 1.59.
The ways being used to improve the fertility rate varies by country. In France, for example, families are given tax rebates for every child born after the second one. But an additional method that European countries are employing is subsidized or free in vitro fertilization.
The countries with the most generous policies included France, Belgium, and Sweden. The UK, Russia, and Ireland all had the least generous policies in Europe, as ranked by a team led by health economist Dr. Mark Connolly, of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.
They found a significant relationship between countries’ policies on the matter and their birth rate, though the relationship was indeed small. The most notable example was Denmark, whose country enacted health cuts in 2011. When they cut their funding for IVF in favor of a fifty percent co-pay, the birth rate drastically declined. The birth rate in 2011 was their lowest in thirteen years.
The only difference to this trend was the United Kingdom. While the fertility rate still stands below 2.1 at 1.91, it is still being seen as a miniature baby boom. Officials are unclear about the cause of the boom, but they deny immigration as a reason.
Unlike other EU countries, the United States’ fertility rate is in keeping with population replacement, it currently stands at 2.06.