Social Scientist. v 17, no. 194-95 (July-Aug 1989) p. 66.

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Fertility Trends and Population Policies and Programmes in Socialist Europe

This paper discusses fertility trends and population policies and programmes in socalist Europe. By socialist Europe we specifically mean Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, the G.D.R., Hungary, Poland, Romania and Yugoslavia. Albania is not discussed since comprehensive data on Albanian population trends are not readily available. Immediately after World War II, socialist Europe's birth rates were still relatively high as compared to western Europe. In the subsequent period there has, however, been a continuous downward trend in fertility throughout the region. A complex set of factors is said to have been responsible for this decline in fertility.1 Among the factors listed are the more active participation by women in economic activities, rural to urban migration and the attendant unfavourable age compositions in the villages, changes in nuptiality patterns and the postponement of marriage, improvements in incomes and living standards with the recognition that in an industrial society there is a lesser need for large families, and the changes in legislation relating to abortion. In view of these declines in fertility, pro-natalist programmes have been adopted almost throughout the region. These are some of the issues that are discussed in this paper.


The downward trend in fertility, after a brief increase in the immediate post-war period to compensate for factors connected with the war, is clear from the figures for crude birth rates.2 In 1950, with the excepttion of the G.D.R., crude birth rates in the region were between 20 and 30 per thousand population. By 1980 the rates had fallen to between 15 and 20 per thousand population. In 1950 the crude birth rates were 25.2 in Bulgaria, 23.3 in Czechoslovakia, 16.9 in the G.D.R, 20.9 in Hungary, 30.7 in Poland, 26.2 in Romania and 30.2 in Yugoslavia. By 1980 the crude birth rates had declined to 14.5 in Bulgaria, 16.2 in Czechoslovakia, 14.6 in the G.D.R., 13.9 in Hungary, 19.5 in Poland, 18.0 in Romania and 17.0 in Yugoslavia. What is particularly remarkable about these declines is the short space of time over which they have taken place. The brief increases in the imme-

* Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Pune.

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