Soaring Number of Childless Women Creating Care Crisis, as Future Elderly Will have no Family to Rely on

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Britain risks “sleepwalking into a crisis” as the number of elderly women who are childless is set to triple in the coming years, official data has revealed.

In a report titled “Living longer: implications of childlessness among tomorrow’s older population” the Office for National Statistics (ONS) warned demand for formal social care is set to triple by 2045.

“In the future, there will be more older people and a higher proportion of those will be childless. Because adult children are the most common providers of informal social care to their parents at older ages, this is likely to increase the demand for paid-for care,” the report says.

The trend, which will see the number of childless women in England and Wales rise from 23,000 last year to 66,313 in 25 years, results from the fact that ‘baby boomer’ women born in 1965 are twice as likely never to have had children as females born immediately after the Second World War.

The ONS figures came after government data released last month showed fertility rates in Britain to be at their lowest since before the Second World War, with a third of births delivered to foreign-born mothers.

Media analysis and commentary on the report centred on what the figures mean for the social care system in Britain, with the Centre for Ageing Better’s director, Catherine Foot, commenting: “Without action to fix our social care system, we risk sleepwalking into a crisis.”

The British establishment seems uninterested, however, in increasing fertility rates despite research consistently showing that childlessness is involuntary in most cases, often as a state women simply “drift into” rather than choose.

While 25 per cent of women with degrees in Britain ultimately go on to have no children, only eight per cent of female university graduates expressed the desire to remain childless, according to a 2014 study.

In 2015, Britain was urged to include lessons on fertility in sex education schooling by an NHS consultant in reproductive medicine who reported that widespread ignorance on the subject had resulted in disappointment for many couples who had left it too late to conceive.

“You would be surprised how many women don’t realise the huge impact age has on their fertility,” Professor Geeta Nargund told The Guardian.

“Women come to me at 38 and say ‘I wish somebody had told me that age had such a big effect on fertility’. Even educated women. They’re not necessarily educated about fertility,” she said.

Denmark took action on the issue of involuntary childlessness in 2015, shifting the focus of sex education classes from avoiding pregnancy to encouraging young people to consider having children at a younger age, before their fertility drops.

“That lack of knowledge [about the age at which women’s fertility declines] can mean that people end up not having children or not having the number of children they want,” said Danish Family Planning Association chief Bjarne Christensen.

“Young people want between two and three children and they are having between one and two. Most people are getting fewer than they thought they could have, and fewer than they wanted,” he said.

With research finding that economic concerns are a major driver in low fertility rates, the conservative governments in Hungary and Poland have pursued pro-family policies, using financial incentives to support young people to have more children rather than mass, third world immigration to offset an ageing population.

Earlier this week Hungary hailed its pro-child policies, which include financial support and tax relief for families, as “an impressive success story”, with the number of marriages doubling from a year earlier while fertility rose 5.5 per cent in just 12 months.


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