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Why are Austrians choosing to have fewer children?

Why are Austrians choosing to have fewer children?
The number of children that Austrians are opting to have has dropped since 2009. Photo: AFP / Alex Halada

Austrians are choosing to have fewer children than in previous decades but what are the reasons?


The ‘Generations & Gender Survey’, conducted by the Generations and Gender Programme of the University of Vienna, in cooperation with the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the University of Salzburg has raised several questions for politicians and policymakers. 

The survey findings indicate that the number of children that Austrian women indicated that they’d like to have has dropped to 1.68. This number is down from 2.1 when a similar survey was conducted in 2009.

Furthermore, there is also a growing number of Austrian women who are opting not to have children altogether.

As Tomáš Sobotka of the Austrian Academy of Sciences states: “According to preliminary estimates, childlessness will be 23-24% for those (women) born in the 1990s”.

To gather these results, 8,000 people of both sexes between 18 and 59 throughout Austria were surveyed between October 2022 and March 2023.

In addition to surveying intentions regarding having children, the survey asked respondents to indicate what may have changed their mind on the matter.

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A series of recent global crises - the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine, and the subsequent financial effects on families  - appear to be having an effect.

Almost a third of those surveyed either changed their desire to have children because of recent global crises (11 percent) or expressed uncertainty about it (19 percent).

Women were more likely to have changed their minds towards not having children, as were men and women under the age of thirty.


The pressures of work are also having an effect. Three-quarters of survey respondents also indicated that a lack of work-life balance negatively affected their desire to have children.

According to Wolfgang Mazal, the head of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, these results are unsurprising: “If you consider the challenges faced by parents, you can understand why they apparently think three times about bringing children into the world.”

However, he also indicates that the survey results should warn the government when formulating future policies and budgets.

“The research results should be used as an impetus for reflection on social conditions: Are lifestyles and social organisations sustainable and open to the future?” he concluded.

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Indications of how this may be achieved can be found in the researching findings, however.. According to the survey, mothers were more likely to state that working from home reduced stress levels for example.

It was also found that couples from or including migrant backgrounds were less likely to have changed their mind regarding having children - 39 percent of surveyed indicated that they would like to have two or more children.

Alongside intentions regarding having children, the ‘Gender & Generations’ survey probed almost every aspect of Austrian family life - from where couples met, to expectations regarding marriage. Even how Austrian couples break up came under the microscope.

An English copy of the research findings is available from the University of Vienna in a PDF format, and includes over 80 pages of findings and raw data.



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