Tuesday, September 27

Having a job determines the period of the year in which women give birth

Having a job or not determines the period of the year in which women living in Spain have children. Employed women tend to conceive during holiday periods – especially in December, during Christmas – and to give birth between August and October. For this population group, the other calving peak occurs during the spring. However, women who are unemployed or inactive for some reason do not present this pattern in their fertility. It is the most remarkable finding of A study conducted by three Spanish researchers that has been published in the scientific journal American Journal of Human Biology.

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“What we see is that the employment status of mothers is the factor that best explains the different seasonal trends in births,” summarizes the mathematician and researcher at the Institute of Fiscal Studies Adela Recio, one of the authors of the study. The research finds two large groups and trends. On the one hand, women who are affected by the work calendar, whose conceptions are concentrated mainly in vacation periods, in summer and Christmas. That means that nine months later there is a peak in births, especially in September.

Within this trend, a group of highly qualified women follows the same rhythm but tends to prefer to give birth in the spring. “We think that precisely because of this qualification, perhaps they think that those dates will make their children one of the oldest in the class and that this will make them predisposed to better results,” explains Recio. The study indicates that there are countries where a strong seasonal pattern linked to the type of profession of the mothers has been demonstrated. This is the case in France, where teachers tend to plan their conceptions to give birth in the spring and then take advantage of the inactive summer months.

On the other hand, the other large group is that of women who do not have a job because they are unemployed or economically inactive. This group is less affected by the work calendar and their conceptions and births are more spread out throughout the year. The seasonal pattern is much less significant here.

On a large scale, the study confirms a change in the trend in the peaks of births in Spain in recent decades. Between 1940 and 1960, the peak of births occurred precisely in spring, between February and April. This pattern was blurred in the following decades until it constituted the one that this research group now highlights. Their conclusion is that the massive incorporation of women into the formal labor market in recent decades is behind this transformation in the tendency to conceive and give birth at certain times of the year.

fewer children

That the employment situation is key when deciding to have children and when it is a certainty shown by the birth data. This week, the National Institute of Statistics published the advance of the figures for the first half of the year: in the first six months, 159,705 children were born in Spain, a figure slightly lower than that of the same period in 2021. The figure, which will be revised, supposes that births are at historic lows, dragged down first by the pandemic and then by the economic crisis.

The trend is long overdue, since Spain has spent decades with very low fertility levels, but is now close to levels never seen before. “What has to do with employment is key. Even in the Nordic countries, which have had relatively high fertility rates, there is now a downward trend that has to do with greater uncertainty about the future,” says demographer and UNED professor Marta Seiz. To the problems dragging down Spanish society and which have a very clear influence on the birth rate –structural unemployment, seasonality, precariousness, difficulty in accessing housing…– an even more complicated context has been added in the last two years.

“It is logical that the trend does not pick up because people of reproductive age face doubts about their employment and economic future, and in the last three years, first with the pandemic and then with the economic and energy crisis, uncertainty has still grown. plus. In periods of crisis there are more doubts about whether it will be possible to maintain a level of income to support some children, companies tighten the screws more and reconciliation problems are aggravated…”, adds Seiz.

The age cohorts that now have children are also less numerous than those of previous decades, so there is necessarily a reduction in the number of births. “In other places there is also late fertility, but since conditions are more favorable, they can have more children in shorter periods of time. In Spain, the transition to the second child is very difficult”, concludes the demographer.