The Norwegian government is concerned about the continuously lower birth rates in the country. The Minister for Children and Families pleads that more mothers have a “third child”, and then also before their 30th birthday.
Birth rates in Norway dropped to an all-time low last year. According to an opinion article in Dagen by the country’s minister for Children and Families, Norwegian parents had 10,000 fewer children in 2022 compared to ten years ago. Minister Kjersti Toppe also notes that fertility rates rose slightly during the Coronavirus pandemic. However, that changed last year when Norway returned to the same trend of having fewer children.
Despite expansions in government policies such as free school and healthcare, experts wonder why fertility remains at record lows. Toppe says that this is because parents are having fewer children and are waiting longer to have them. According to the Minister’s statistics, the average age for Norwegian women giving birth is now at 30 years. Ten years ago, the average age was 28. Fewer parents are also insisting on having three or more children.
“Is it tempting to say where this will end?” she said.
Toppe, who is mother of six, says that the low birth rates are not due to the rising number of childless individuals. Rather it is due to the fact that parents are not having more than three children. The “two-child norm” stands as the more ideal setup, she says.
“Having children is, of course, a completely personal choice, with which the larger society in and of itself has nothing to do. Someone struggles to have children, and that is also important to remember in this debate. But it is time for a more open debate about what needs to be done, so that more young people decide to start a family earlier than when they are well into their 30s, and that more people have their third child,” she said.
Potential of families
Record low birth rates have also been seen in Finland. Juho Sankamo, a priest from the nation’s Evangelical Lutheran Church said that the West has “forgotten the underestimated potential of families.”
Children keep the old young. Also, children will grow up in time to do the innovations and necessary work. As the Pope said: ‘Fewer children are born, and this means that everyone’s future impoverishes. Italy, Europe and the West are impoverishing their own future,’ he said to Seurakuntalainen, which was translated by CNE News.
Sankamo also suggests that society should “trash” the concept of seeing a career and family as “opposing interests.” Such a dichotomy does not inspire one to start a family, he says.
As for future solutions, Kjersti Toppe says that family policy should be given “greater status.” Raising a family requires many hours of hard work, which is not formally recognised. Better recognition could come in the form of expanded parental allowance schemes and highlighting the positives, not the problems.
“We must make it easier for parents of young children, whether they are working or not. They are really good investments for the future,” she said to Dagen.