Introduction: Aspirations and Uncertainties. Childbearing Choices and Work-Life Realities in Europe

  • Livia Sz. Oláh
  • Susanne Fahlén
Part of the Work and Welfare in Europe book series (RECOWE)


Europe is facing a demographic challenge based on the conjuncture of population ageing and a shrinking labour force that in the long run jeopardises economic growth and sustainable development. The current situation is the outcome of three trends: (i) long-term below-replacement level period fertility (that is less than 2.05 children per woman on average); (ii) increasing longevity; and (iii) a growing proportion of people in their late 50s and above in the labour force. While the latter two trends nearly equally apply to every society in Europe, cross-country variations in fertility levels are quite substantial, accelerating population ageing in societies where fertility rates have remained below the critical level of 1.5 children per woman for longer periods (McDonald, 2006; Myrskylä et al., 2009). In addressing country differences in fertility, the importance of the childbearing, female employment and work-life balance policy interplay has been increasingly recognised in contemporary scholarships of the welfare state, economics, gender and demography (see e.g. Castles, 2003; Gornick and Meyers, 2003; Engelhardt et al., 2004; Frejka et al., 2008a; Thévenon and Gauthier, 2011).


Labour Force Participation Total Fertility Rate Fertility Intention Demographic Research International Social Survey Programme 
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© Livia Sz. Oláh and Susanne Fahlén 2013

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  • Livia Sz. Oláh
  • Susanne Fahlén

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