Belgium’s birth rate has declined for a seventh consecutive year, according to figures released by Belgium’s statistical office, Statbel.
Data analysed from 2016 and 2017 indicates that Belgium’s birth rate now stands at 10.5 births per 1,000 women. The total number of live births from mothers living on Belgian territory also fell below 120,000 for the first time in many years – although, claims Statbel, “the population as a whole is still slightly growing” due to immigration.
The total Belgian fertility rate currently stands at 1.64 children per woman on average, compared to 1.68 in 2016. This figure, while low by global standards, is still higher than the European average of 1.59. From a regional point of view, the drop in 2017 is greater in Flanders (from 1.66 to 1.62 children per woman) than in Wallonia (from 1.66 to 1.63) and Brussels (from 1.82 to 1.80). “In the long run, however,” says Statbel, “There is undeniably a convergence of fertility rates across the different regions in Belgium.”
Interestingly, the number of children born per woman of Belgian nationality is similar in the three regions; it is the children born to mothers residing in Belgium but of foreign nationality who largely explain the differential birth rate. Women who do not have Belgian nationality have on average more children in Flanders (2.56 children per woman) and in Wallonia (2.33) than in the capital (2.06), where births are overall far more numerous (accounting for 52% of all Belgian births, compared to 21.6% in Flanders and 18.2% in Wallonia).
The average age of a mother when giving birth to her first child is also declining. A woman gave birth to her first born child on average at 28.9 years of age in 1998 and 27.3 years of age in 2016. Women in Wallonia become mothers (28.4 years) on average sooner than women in Flanders (28.9 years) and Brussels (30.1 years).
One in two children is also born out of wedlock in Belgium. The trend is particularly strong in Wallonia (more than 60%), while in Flanders the figure is slightly under 50%. In Brussels, only 35% of babies are born out of wedlock.