A study carried out by the National Institute of Statistics (INE) has revealed that the steady rise recorded in the country’s birth rate since 1996 has been interrupted. Cristina Alcock analyses the statistics.
In the year 2002, 114,456 children were born, indicating a decrease of around 2,000 births annually since 1990. The figures show that the average number of children per woman remains below the level required to replace the generations, which requires 2.1 children to be born to each woman. In 1995 the average birth rate was 1.41 children per woman, there was a small increase in 2000 (1.56 children per woman) but the statistics now stand at 1.47 children per woman.
Boys versus girls
According to the INE, there are more boys than girls born in Portugal. Of total births in 2002, 51.9 per cent were male and 48.1 per cent female. However, average life expectancy is higher for girls. In 1990, a boy could expect to live, on average, for 70.6 years, and in 2002, 73.7 years. For girls, life expectancy has increased from 77.6 to 80.6 years, in the same period.
Across the country 92 children were born to mothers under the age of 15 in 2002. This shows an improvement from 2000, when 116 babies were born to mothers aged between 11 and 14 years.
The INE study indicates that the majority of Portuguese children now attend primary school, and in 2002, around 184,000 children attended pre-school. But, in the same year, only around 9,000 reached secondary education. In fact, the report states that, between the academic years of 1997/98 and 2003/04, the number of enrolments in primary and secondary education decreased (down 10 per cent in primary and 20.3 per cent in secondary schools).