Fertility rates over time and in different continents

Fertility rates, which measure the average number of children a woman has in her lifetime, are key indicators of a population’s growth and societal health. Over time, these rates have shifted dramatically due to advancements in healthcare, economic changes, and evolving cultural norms. Do you want to know more about the fertility rate and the role it plays in near future population growth? Read part 1 of our message, ‘People want children’, for more information.

People want children

fertility rates too many too much

Historical fertility rates

Historically, fertility rates were quite high. In the past, especially before modern advancements, it was common for a woman to have between 4.5 to 7 children. This high number was partly due to the high rates of child mortality; families needed more children to ensure some would survive into adulthood. Additionally, larger families were often a necessity for supporting parents in old age.

As societies developed, particularly over the last 50 years, there was a significant drop in global fertility rates. This change is linked to several factors such as better healthcare, which reduced child mortality, and increased access to education, particularly for women. Improved living standards and access to family planning also contributed to this decline.

Fertility rates across the world

The impact of various factors on fertility rates has led to distinct fertility trends in different parts of the world. These regional variations highlight the influence of cultural, economic, and policy-driven factors on population growth. Read on for a short overview on the fertility rate in different parts of the world.



Europe’s fertility rates have been decreasing for a long time, now often below the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman. This decline is attributed to various factors, including economic stability, high levels of education, and comprehensive social welfare systems.


The Americas

In North and South America, fertility rates vary but have generally been on a downward trend, similar to Europe. The reasons include economic development, education, and access to healthcare.



Countries in Asia have seen dramatic changes in their fertility rates. For example, Iran and Thailand experienced significant decreases in their fertility rates over the past few decades, mirroring the global trend. On the other hand, other Asian countries have fertility rates that remain high. Furthermore, many countries in Asia, like China, are pushing policies that promote childbirth.



In Africa, fertility rates remain higher compared to other continents. This is due to a combination of factors, including less access to family planning, higher child mortality rates, and cultural preferences for larger families. However, even in Africa, fertility rates are starting to decline as the continent develops economically and improves in healthcare and education.

Future projections

Looking ahead, fertility rates are expected to continue declining in many parts of the world. This trend will likely lead to aging populations and slower population growth rates, posing new challenges and opportunities for societies globally. Governments may react to these challenges by trying to promote childbirth, leading to a higher ‘all time high’ population number, and even bigger challenges. This is the core of the message of our organisation: Too Many, Too Much.

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