In the United Kingdom as well as in Italy, the annual number of births in the mid- 1960s was close to 1 million; it has fallen by one-quarter in the United Kingdom and by nearly one-half in Italy. In Germany, the absolute decline is still more impressive: 1.3 million in 1965 compared to about 0.8 million in 1995; the difference is 500,000 births per year (See table below). The case of France differs for two reasons: there the fertility decrease was not as steep as in neighboring countries of continental Europe, and the age structure had a protective impact; France had more baby boomers at childbearing ages. These crude data on births are important because they shape the age structure, and finally they constitute the most essential variable for political authorities at all levels (local, regional, national, and international). Under present conditions of very low mortality, they determine the number of students, the number of future inflows in the labor market, the number of consumers, of taxpayers, etc.; they have a decisive impact on long-range variations in demand, on investment (infrastructure, housing), and on corresponding sectorial labor needs (teachers, doctors, builders, etc.).
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