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Statement on ONS release on childbearing and family size

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Population Matters statement on ONS release on childbearing and family size

22 November 2018 immediate use

  Reference to today’s ONS release: Childbearing for women born in different years, England and Wales: 2017

Population Matters Dirctor Robin Maynard says:

“Small families is good news. British people having fewer children (1) is good for our society, good for our environment and most of all, good for the children themselves. Within the last few weeks, major environmental reports have hammered home yet again the devastating consequences of human activity on global climate and our biodiversity (2). Fewer people means less impact, and a better chance for children born today to lead fulfilling lives on a healthy planet. It’s time for policymakers and businesses to stop wringing their hands over fewer people being born and start embracing it.

“In the UK, we have a disproportionate environmental impact – if everyone lived as we do, we would need three Earths to sustain us (3). Population growth is adversely affecting our environment and quality of life in this country directly. It means even more pressure on our public services, transport, housing and infrastructure and with one-in-five UK mammal species facing extinction (4), our vital ecosystems are paying the price of feeding, housing and transporting a constantly growing population.

“People understand this. Earlier this year, a Population Matters poll found that 64% of the British public think projected population growth is too high and just 2% – that’s just one-in-fifty- think it is too low (5).

“The public concern is real – the government must take action. That means encouraging smaller family sizes and taking a rational, realistic approach to immigration. Population Matters is calling for a proper, evidence-based, joined-up Sustainable Population Policy in the UK (6). Our poll found that 74% of people support a national strategy to address population. The time for action is now.” 



 Alistair Currie, Head of Campaigns and Communications


T: +44 (0)208 123 9170

Notes for editors

(1) Main points of today’s ONS release:

The average completed family size for women in England and Wales who reached the age of 45 years in 2017 was 1.89 children, the lowest level recorded to date.

Of the women who reached the age of 45 years in 2017, 18% were childless at the end of their childbearing years compared to 10% a generation before (born 1945).

The most common age of childbirth for women born in 1972 who reached age 45 years in 2017 was 31 years, compared to between 23 and 24 years for women born in 1945.

A quarter of women who reached age 25 years in 2017 had at least one child – the lowest percentage on record.  

(2) IPPC, 2018, Global warming of 1.5 degrees; WWF Living Planet Report 2018

(3) Global Footprint Network,EFCpc

(4) Mammal Society,

(5) All figuresare from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1,693 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 28th – 29th June 2018.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). The poll was conducted using the ONS population figure of 66m released on 28 June and reaffirmed in todays release and the ONS population projection of a population of 72.9m in 2041, also reaffirmed in today’s ONS release. Further detail on the poll results available on request. 


Generally speaking, do you think the government should, or should not, have a strategy to address population in the UK?

Should: 74% Should not: 7% Don’t know: 18%

Based on current rates of growth, the Office for National Statistics projects that in 2041 the population will increase from 66 million now to 72.9 million. Generally speaking, do you think this rate of population growth is too high, too low or about right?

Too high: 64% Too low: 2% About right: 18% Don’t know: 16%

(6) Sustainable Population Policy  

Population Matters is a UK-based charity which campaigns to achieve a sustainable human population, to protect the natural world and improve people’s lives.

We promote positive, practical, ethical solutions – encouraging smaller families, inspiring people to consume sustainably, and helping us all to live within our planet’s natural limits. We believe everyone should have the freedom and ability to choose a smaller family. We support human rights, women’s empowerment and global justice.


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