(Bloomberg) -- Pandemic lockdowns may have encouraged home baking and online shopping, but baby-making not so much -- at least in France.
The number of French births dropped to the lowest level in almost three decades in October, intensifying a downward trend in one of Europe’s most fertile countries.
There were 1,940 births in the month, a 10% drop from a year ago, according to the latest figures published by national statistics agency Insee. That’s the lowest level since 1994, Isabelle Robert-Bobée, head of demography studies, told Le Parisien newspaper, citing a backdrop of uncertainty that often affects fertility.
France has long enjoyed comparatively high fertility levels among developed countries, but the latest numbers suggest even it may have lost ground during the Covid-19 crisis.
While the rate has declined dramatically across the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development over the past decades, France ranked just behind Ireland as the most fertile European country, according to the latest study on social trends within the group of rich countries.
Yet the most recent French figures show a decline that has intensified in recent months and highlights the effects on baby-making during and after pandemic-related lockdowns.
According to Insee, the country’s first Covid confinement in the spring of 2020 caused couples to delay plans for babies and led to a record drop in the number of births nine months later. While conception increased at the end of that lockdown and each one after that, the upward bump in the number of births was less marked each time and has now given way to a decline since July.
The number of births in September and October this year were below the levels during the same months in 2020, which hadn’t yet been affected by the pandemic, Insee said.
“The levels are really low,” Robert-Bobée was quoted as saying, adding that the effects of the war in Ukraine, which got underway in February may start to emerge in the France’s November numbers.
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