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Fertility Summary, 2010

Released: 06 October 2011 Download PDF

Figure 1: Total Fertility Rate (TFR), constituent countries of the UK and EU15, 1985-2010

UK and EU15 Total fertility rates


  1. Source: Office for National Statistics (ONS), Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA), National Records of Scotland (NRS) and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
  2. OECD data for EU15 are only available up to 2009.

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In 2010, the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) in all four constituent countries of the UK was higher than a decade previously (Figure 1). Following a decline through the 1990s, there was an upturn in fertility rates from the early 2000s onwards. With the exception of 2009, this increase broadly continued throughout the last decade.

Northern Ireland consistently had the highest TFR over the last 25 years, reaching 2.06 children per woman in 2010. It is the only UK country to exceed the replacement level of fertility of 2.07, both prior to the early 1990s and again in 2008. Scotland has had the lowest TFR of the four UK countries during this period (1.75 in 2010). However Scotland’s fertility rate since 2007 has been considerably higher than that seen in the EU15 countries on average (1.63 in 2009).

In the mid 1980s, fertility in Wales was somewhat higher than in England. This disparity continued until the late 1990s when the fertility rates in both countries fell and converged. Since 2006 the TFR in England has been slightly higher than in Wales and in 2010 reached 2.00 (England) and 1.98 (Wales).

The drop in fertility experienced by all UK countries (and the EU15) in 2009, which was likely to be related to the recession, was starker in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland than in England. With the exception of Scotland, fertility rates increased in 2010, with fertility in England and in Wales reaching its highest level for over 25 years.

Figure 2: Age–specific fertility rates (ASFRs), constituent countries of the UK, 2010

UK Age-specific fertility rates


  1. Source: Office for National Statistics (ONS), Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) and National Records of Scotland (NRS)

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The average age of women giving birth has steadily increased in all four UK countries over the last 25 years. It reached 30.0 years in Northern Ireland in 2010, 29.6 in both Scotland and England and 28.9 in Wales. Figure 2 shows that women tend to have their children later in Northern Ireland than the other three UK countries, while women in Wales have their families at younger ages on average.

In 2000, fertility rates were highest among women in their late 20s in all four UK countries. By 2010 this had changed in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In these three countries fertility rates are now highest among women in their early 30s, with the highest fertility rate in 2010 being for women aged 31 (Figure 2). In contrast, the age profile for fertility in Wales has remained distinctly younger, with fertility remaining highest among women in their late 20s and peaking at age 29.

Source: Office for National Statistics

Background notes

  1. Northern Ireland figures for 2010 are provisional until the publication of the Registrar General Annual Report 2010 in November 2011.

  2. The age-specific fertility rate (ASFR), is the number of births per 1,000 women in the stated age group.

  3. The Total Fertility Rate (TFR), is the average number of children that a group of women would have if they experienced the ASFRs for a particular year throughout their childbearing lives. The TFR reflects the current intensity of childbearing and the rate at which the population replaces itself. The TFR is a synthetic measure since ASFRs do not normally remain stable during the childbearing life span of a woman.

  4. The TFR and average (mean) age at birth are standardised measures that eliminate the impact of changes in the age distribution of the population and so enable analysis of time trends.

  5. All data included in this summary refer to all live births, not specifically first births.

  6. Replacement fertility is the level of fertility required to ensure a population continues to replace itself in size. In England and Wales, replacement fertility has been estimated to be 2.07. Further information on this is available at: Smallwood, S and Chamberlain, J (2005), Replacement fertility: what has it been and what does it mean? (186.1 Kb Pdf) , Population Trends 119, pp 16–47, spring 2005.

  7. The EU15 group consists of all 15 EU countries prior to the accession of the 10 candidate countries on 1 May 2004: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and United Kingdom.

  8. For further information please contact: or +44 (0)1329 444080.

  9. You may re-use this information (not including logos) free of charge in any format or medium, under the terms of the Open Government Licence or write to the Information Policy Team, The National Archives, Kew, London TW9 4DU


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Further information

Births and fertility: frequently asked questions (Pdf 198Kb) - Health and life events user guidance - Births and fertility: frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Births and Deaths in England and Wales, 2010 (Pdf 115Kb) - Numbers of live births, fertility rates, percentage of births outside marriage, sex ratio, mean age of mother, area of usual residence of mother and country of birth of mother and father.
Vital Statistics: Population and Health Reference Tables - These tables provide annual and quarterly data for a selection of key statistics under the following themes: population, demography and health.
Births by Area of Usual Residence of Mother, UK - Annual data on birth registrations. The tables contain summary data for live births for local authorities and health areas including figures by age of mother.

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