To design a population policy, the decision maker has to use an index that is not biased by age structure and that reflects the sheer propensity to have children: the total fertility rate. The indicator is permanently calculated for the purpose of international comparisons, and it is widely produced to show the impact of a given plan (antinatalist or pronatalist) of action. The table below shows that the European trends are radical. In most of the “big” countries of the EU, the total fertility rate fell on average by 1.0 to 1.4 children per woman. In Spain, the decline was much sharper: 2.90 at the beginning of the 1960s but only 1.15 in 1996, 1.75 in absolute terms and hence a relative decline of 60%. There is no more Mediterranean or Catholic fertility, since Italy and Spain have experienced the lowest fertility ever seen in the history of mankind.
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A comparison between northern and southern Europe through the examples of Sweden and Italy is instructive. Until the 1970s the Swedish fertility rate was lower than the Italian rate, and it was under the EU curve (See Graph Below). Now the opposite is true; new generations of Swedish women have more children than corresponding Italian women.