Crisis forces Madrilenos to have smaller families

MADRID -- The economic crisis is indirectly causing the Spanish population to become increasingly smaller.
Written by Jennifer Riggins, Contributor

MADRID--The recession is just another excuse for Spanish couples to wait even longer to have kids. One-child families and an increasing need for fertility assistance are becoming the norm in España.

Due to both economic and cultural influences, Madrileños wait until they are well into their thirties to move out of their parents' homes. They then wait more time to attempt to have children, which often pushes women past the optimal age of conception.

In Madrid, one-child families are becoming increasingly popular, with 32-percent more families making this choice in the last five years, according to a study released on Monday by Community of Madrid's Ministry of Social Affairs.

Researchers also stated that, in Madrid, the average age for first motherhood is 31.19, which is around the EU average. The average age to get married in Madrid is 33 for women and 35 for men. In the United States, the average age for a woman to have her first child is 25.1, while the average age for a first marriage is 27 for women and 28 for men.

The Community of Madrid has the second highest birth rate of all Spanish provinces, exceeding the Spanish average of 1.06 children per couple.

In Spain, 800,000 couples report having fertility problems.Each year, there are more than 80,000 women who receive assisted reproductive treatments through the public system.Spanish fertility law technically provides publicly-funded in vitro fertilization (IVF) for any woman 18 and over with a medical need. "The woman may be a user or recipient of the techniques covered in this law regardless of her marital status and sexual orientation."  Any sperm or egg donation must be anonymous.

In the public system, the waiting list for the first appointment can be about eight to ten months. This adds further to the delay of the IVF process that usually takes about two years. A 2006 study by the Spanish government noted that 55-percent of women who request IVF treatment are over 35, which is, on average, the final year women are at their optimal fertility. By the time they finish their first round of treatment in the public system, these women could be three years older.

2010 saw the lowest Spanish birth rate in seven years. The Spanish census department cited both the Spanish real estate crisis of 2008 and the euro-related crisis of 2010 as main causes of the population decrease. Between 2000 and 2010, the Spanish population had an influx of about 8 million immigrants, mostly from Ecuador, Romania and Morocco. However, immigration into Spain is on a definite downturn due to a lack of job opportunities. The official unemployment rate is currently 23-percent, but some estimates mark it as really around 40-percent.

The struggling Spanish economy is a major reason that families are waiting to have children.

Enrique and his wife Ana, 36 and 35, respectively, have been trying to get pregnant for more than three years now. "When you start to have a child, you start without a hurry because you think you have time," Enrique said. "After two years, you start to get worried, and that's when we started with the medical stuff." It is highly medically unlikely that, after three rounds of IVF, the couple will get pregnant. Womb rental, which would be a medically-successful option for the couple, is illegal in Spain. Therefore, the couple is now in the frustratingly-long bureaucratic stages of attempting to adopt from the Czech Republic.

The story of why the couple delayed trying to have children until their thirties is a very common one in Spain.

"Our generation started to live together much later. We all went to university, and, when we graduated (around 2000,) the job market coincided with the first Internet crisis. Bad jobs, not well-paid. We had to continue living with our parents," Enrique said. "After that, when you had job stability, it coincided with the housing market" prices climbing rapidly, making houses less affordable.

Less than 20-percent of Madrileños 30 years of age or younger rent. "Culturally, our parents try to say to us that it's very important to have your own house," Enrique said. "If you rent it, it's likely you are wasting your money. You must leave something for your children when you die--apart of your heritage."

Enrique says that it is difficult to rent in Madrid. About five years ago, "you could buy yourself a house with the same amount of money per month" as renting. "It was very easy to borrow money from the bank."

Of course, once the housing bubble that Spain was precariously resting on burst, borrowing money for a "hipoteca" (mortgage) became more challenging. With high interest rates precluding housing purchases, adults continue to live with their parents longer.

The economic cycle which leads to women to wait to get pregnant continues.

Photo: China Hearsay blog

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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