Ticos Stop Reproducing: “Ultra-Low Fertility” Places Costa Rica Among Countries With The Lowest Rate Of Children

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    While the world sounds alarms because in the coming weeks it will reach 8,000 million inhabitants, in Costa Rica there are also alerts, but on the contrary. The reality of many families – where the grandparents had more than 10 children, the parents reduced to four and now, they have a baby – is multiplied in most homes in the country. Today, the fertility rate is close to the lowest in the world.

    The phenomenon hit the most developed countries first and is known as “ultra-low fertility”. This drastically reduces the number of children per woman and, for the local case, draws even more attention due to the speed with which it occurred.

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    By 1970, the average of four children per woman was exceeded. For the new century came a turning point. Initially, the “replacement rate” was reached, in which each woman has 2.2 children, which makes it possible to keep the number of the population stable.

    This, however, was followed by an even more rapid decline towards 2016 and 2017. At this time, the indicator reaches 1.3 children per woman in general. But if foreigners are excluded, the figure drops to 1.1.

    The lowest in Latin America

    This figure is not only the lowest in Latin America, but also equals the lowest indicators in the world, very similar to the numbers in South Korea, Taiwan or Singapore.

    This scenario had been under analysis by experts for years and was presented at a special forum convened by the UN Population Fund. There, the national demographer Luis Rosero explained the analyzes and showed the impact that could come.

    Delay or give up children?

    Among those who have children, there is another notable change: each time the pregnancy occurs at a more mature age. In the 1970s, for example, 75% of women were mothers before the age of 25. In 2000 the figure dropped to 55% and now we are down to less than 30%.

    One of the expectations was that although motherhood was postponed, children would be had later. However, the signs show that this optimistic scenario is not taking place.

    “It is possible that many women who postponed and are postponing starting motherhood or having children when they are young will not make up for them when they reach older ages,” Rosero stressed. That fall defined it as a “red line” that should cause concern when crossed.

    Although data still needs to be studied and it is hoped that the latest census will allow projections to be updated, the expert advanced some theses and examples from other countries. For example, there are issues of gender equity and opportunities for families that inevitably end up impacting decisions about having children.

    Far from 6 million

    One of the most notorious statistical representations of this drop in fertility is that it is difficult to reach 6 million inhabitants. In Costa Rica, the figure of the first million had been achieved in 1956 and then there was a rapid rise. By 2001 the baby “4 million” was born in Limón and in 2018 Heredia received the “5 million”.

    At the current rate, the next digit would be missing. “It is very possible that the country will never reach 6 million inhabitants,” Rosero emphasized. In the most hypothetical scenario, the 6 million would be achieved until 2046. However, with the estimated rates, the maximum peak would be around 5.7 million and from there there would rather be a decrease.

    As an example: for 2021, 70,000 births were projected, but the actual figure was barely around 54,000. Coupled with this low birth rate, the warnings are made in two phases. The first is that the effects will be noticed later, as the generations grow.

    The second has to do with the changes that will be seen in societies. This is because as there are fewer young people, the number of older adults will grow; pensions could reach worrying levels and the entire economic apparatus will have to be reinvented, depending on the needs of the population.

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