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Wednesday, July 28, 1999 Published at 17:51 GMT 18:51 UK


Scotland suffers baby blues

Many women are choosing careers above having children

The birth rate in Scotland has fallen to its lowest level since records began, according to government figures.

A growing army of childless career women and the widely-reported lower sperm count among men are two reasons being blamed for the 3% drop in 1998.

BBC Scotland Health Correspondent Abeer Parkes: "Another fall in births"
With 57,319 live births in 1998 - 2,121 fewer than 1997 - concern is now growing over the country's ageing population and dwindling workforce.

Strathclyde University sociologist, Isobel Lindsay, believes modern society has forced working couples to opt for a life without children.

[ image: Lowest number of recorded births]
Lowest number of recorded births
She said: "Many choose to pursue a career or to pursue other interests in their lives.

"But I think there is a negative side to this in that many households have become dependent on two incomes to maintain a standard of living.

"Therefore having a child actually costs much more than it did in the past for reasons of standards of living."

The latest birth figures for Scotland appear in the Registrar General's Annual Report - which also reveals other key statistics about the country's population.

In Scotland last year there were 59,164 deaths, 330 fewer than in 1997 and 29,668 marriages, 57 more than in 1997.

The document is the first of its kind to come before the new Scottish Parliament and it is expected that ministers will use the information contained in it to help development future policy.

[ image: Isobel Lindsay:
Isobel Lindsay: "Children cost much more"
While the birth rate has dropped, the number of deaths in 1998 was one of the lowest to be recorded since 1856.

The report contains detailed analyses of the causes of death, by age, sex and area.

Cancer and ischaemic heart disease were the two most common causes, each accounting for about a quarter of all deaths in 1998.

The fall in the rate of babies born reflects the general downward trend in population evident since the 1960s.

The number of people living in Scotland peaked at 5.23m in 1971. But numbers have fallen steadily ever since.

The 1998 figure stands at 5.1m, a small decrease of 2,500 on 1997.

Population is, however, projected to remain relatively stable at around 5m over the next 25 years.

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