Home Politics Seriously Polly, Immigration Matters Concerning Fertility Rates

Seriously Polly, Immigration Matters Concerning Fertility Rates



Polly Toynbee wants us all to know that it’s the doom and gloom of having the Tories in power which has lowered fertility rates in Britain. For, under Blair and Brown we all dropped children like confetti. This is, amazingly, her actual argument too:

Of course birthrates are plunging – the Tories have created a child-unfriendly society
Polly Toynbee

OK, fair enough, Polly doesn’t write her headlines. Except this really is her argument:

This comes as no surprise, looking at historical patterns: when times are hard people can afford fewer babies. In this miserable decade when wages fell back, when good jobs were replaced with insecure, disrespected work, young people struggle to pay rent, home ownership falls and many live with parents well into their 30s.

The Labour years saw birthrates rise. There was no conscious pro-natalist policy to boost the population, but a government full of new women MPs focused on nurseries. Primed with evidence that good early development is the best investment for education and a good life, they quoted at the Treasury the Perry HighScope project from the days of Lyndon Johnson’s presidency in the US. It proved how investment in two years of intensive pre-school help for families yielded great savings later as those children thrived.

That inspired Labour’s Sure Start: its 3,500 children’s centres, one in pram-pushing distance of every young family, were popular and welcoming places providing midwives, health visitors, parenting classes, drop-in playgroups and nurseries as hubs for isolated young parents. Subsidised childcare helped mothers back to work. Child tax credits boosted family incomes, taking a million children out of poverty. Maternity rights expanded, with paternity pay introduced. Making life easier for mothers allowed them to have more children in a time of optimism amid economic growth.

Well, sure, it could be that if you spawn you get to introduce the kid to bureaucrats early on, that might be what raised fertility rates.

It could also be that recessions reduce fertility. For at the population level fertility is pro-cyclical.

Other explanations are possible. Perhaps the arrival of Blair and Brown meant we were all so aghast that we stayed in bed with the obvious consequences. That bright new dawn of the Cameroons brought us out again and so we did other stuff. Or perhaps we were so excited by Blair that we forgot where the condoms were.

Or perhaps we could be mildly serious for a moment. Immigrants bring with them the fertility levels of their source. It is in the second and third generations that the number of children resets toward the levels of the host population. This is well known and should be so to everyone who wishes to talk about the subject.

Mass immigration is a relatively new thing in Britain. The grand surge was, as we know, under Blair and Brown as the central European accession countries were allowed to export labour to us. That wave of Polish plumbers – in itself a good thing. It’s just that such things must be considered in the round.

We had a wave of immigration, those immigrants brought their fertility rates with them. That wave has reduced somewhat in recent years.

This wave was significant as ONS points out in relation to the fertility levels:

It’s a big enough effect to have made a difference at the population level.

Please note what is not being said here. That the rise and then decline in fertility rates is purely a product of damn foreigners coming over here and sprogging. Rather, that a discussion of fertility that does not consider the impact of immigration is worth the usual amount of a Polly Toynbee examination of reality – not a great deal.

It is actually possible, as Polly asserts, that British women had more unprotected sex as a result of the provision of state podding hutches. We do though need rather more consideration of the facts before we so conclude.



  1. The below replacement levels of live births in the UK can most likely be attributed to three main causes.

    Firstly contraception and the subsequent separation of the sexual act from procreation; which is a sociological and technological phenomena, the causes of which lie in feminism and science. Today the government is investing in a company that organises women-centric orgies, which some might think a completely inappropriate way to use tax payers money, but it does promote the wrong headed the idea that sex is a purely pleasurable rather than procreative and pleasurable act.

    Secondly there is an economic cause, housing is expensive and many cannot afford a home that is comfortably large enough to have more than one child. The causes of this are restrictive planning laws, high levels of migration driving up prices and of course geographical factors, England being the second most densely populated country in Europe, after Malta.

    Thirdly and perhaps most saliently, modern feminism, in whatever wave it likes to label itself, has devalued the most important thing human beings can do, to pass on their genes. Perhaps if you are a modern day Madame Curie, then not procreating can be balanced with a collectively beneficial discovery, but for the majority the best thing that they can contribute is to birth a child. However, going to work (whether or not an economic necessity) has been lauded as more important than creating, nurturing and loving children. Not only is this position diametrically opposed to evolutionary principles, but it also devalues and dehumanises the most beautiful of things, parenthood. Can there really be any comparison between clocking on and off in a factory or penning drivel in Guardian or BBC to bringing into the world and caring for a new life with new and evolving DNA?

    • The main reason that people screw is because they enjoy it. The procreation part comes, haha unintended pun, a very distant second.

  2. WHAT?
    Apart from 1946-9 Conservative governments had higher birth rates for exactly that reason, The fertility rate peaked in 1964 after 13 years of Conservative government and then declined until a minor bounce in 1977,; there was a secondary peak in 1980 under Margaret Thatcher.
    Is Polly lying or is she just stupid?Who can tell?

    • She is undoubtedly not unintelligent, but that does not mean she is s not an idiot. I do not mean that pejoratively, intelligence and idiocy are too often comfortable bed fellows.

  3. I noticed a recent article that state subsidies for childcare and parental leave correlated with lower fertility rates. Correlation isn’t causation but I’d rather not take my chances that in this case it runs the opposite way. thanks


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expunct (ɪkˈspʌŋkt)
VERB (transitive)
1. to delete or erase; blot out; obliterate
2. to wipe out or destroy

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