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Fertility in Portugal: a Macro/Micro Economic Perspective

Funding institutions:

Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia

Contract reference: POCI/DEM/59445/2004
Period: 08/2005-07/2008
Project value: 30 000 €

Portugal is one of the European countries with below-replacement fertility since the 1980’s. This trend suggests that the number of births, at least in the next future, can go on decreasing. If it will be true, it will have dramatic consequences not only in the shape of the demography of the new generations, but also it will have a remarkable impact on their labor market conditions, education, housing, pension systems and others.
So it is crucial to explain period fertility in Portugal, using accurate data and recently developed demographic methods that enable us to clarify the distinction between the level of fertility and the postponement of the mean age of fertility. These two components are responsible for the observed period fertility indicators. It is also essential to realize the factors that mainly influence them, at the macro and at the micro level.
We assume that the postponement of the mean age of fertility is significantly related with a more wide behavior, which is the transition to adulthood (mean age of stopping education, entrance in the labor market, leaving parental home, getting married or forming an union). So we consider that it is essential to analyze it within this more large perspective. Doing so we believe we can better understand which are the most relevant factors (sociological, economical, cultural, and institutional) that underlying those “transition” behaviors (in the way that all of them points in the same direction: postponement) and also to date the onset of the Second Demographic Transition in Portugal.
When the main factors those explain both the level and the (rate of change of the) mean age of fertility, at micro and macro level, will be achieved, it will be possible to forecast the future number of births in Portugal, given different scenarios based on their probable future behavior.
Some authors argue that all the population forecasts should be probabilistic. We agree with this approach, so we will use a methodology that enables us to obtain not only a range of possible outcomes but also a probability attached with to that range. To do so we will use expert judgment.
Furthermore, we will follow this methodological approach in each critical point of the research (reconstructing data; applying new demographic methods; discussing the relevant variables; testing the model; forecasting population; selecting domains of policy intervention). The workshops proposed in each one of the phases of the Project intend to join a group of national and international experts whose contributions shall be vital for the discussion and adoption of the different methodological approaches. Finally, we will be able to recommend the main domains where is urgent to interfere in terms of political measures. The main outcomes of the Project, especially those related with the different size of the future generations (as a function of distinct scenarios based on period fertility variants) are also very important for the planning of future needs.