THE number of Scots who don’t intend to have children has significantly risen since 2005, a new study has suggested.
The Scottish Government undertook two research exercises about the factors that impact the decision to start a family and respondents’ attitudes.
They found that financial concerns and a lack of affordable housing were two important factors that impacted the decision of whether or not to have children, while a smaller number of Scots cited concerns over the climate.
Scotland has an ageing population and with the birth rate continuing to fall, the population is expected to peak in 2028 before starting a downward spiral, the document explained.
The report said: “This is primarily due to the number of deaths outweighing births, and not enough inward migration to compensate.”
The first study involved a questionnaire, and then focus groups and interviews were conducted to expand on the findings.
A total of 1144 respondents took part in the initial survey on their ideal and expected family size. It found that almost half (45%) want two children and 18% want three children.
The report continued: “Sixteen percent of respondents reported that their ideal family size was no children, with 39% of single adults reporting zero as their ideal number of children.
“When this question was last asked, in 2005, only 7% replied that this was their ideal.”
The document cautioned that it was not possible to make “robust direct comparisons” between the 2005 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, and 2021’s, but said it can “contextualise” the 2021 findings.
The results also show that a third of respondents planned to, or expected to have, two children during their lifetime (33%), followed by respondents who expected to have no children (21%).
Respondents who live in larger cities were also more likely not to have children (46%) than those in rural areas (26%).
However, for those respondents who did want to have children “a gap exists between the number of children that people report that they would like to have, and the number they are actually having”.
The main barrier respondents said influenced their decision not to have children was financial concerns, while for those who had children but did not want to expand their family, the decision was put down to the age of the parents, with many deciding to have children later in life.
“The cost of childcare, the inadequacy of maternity leave pay, and home ownership were reported as the main financial worries impacting on people’s family size expectations,” the report added.
Meanwhile, the study also asked respondents what improvements or “enablers” would encourage them to achieve their ideal family size.
Financial support was again the biggest factor, but housing and the cost of buying a home were also cited as a deterrent to starting a family.
“This was also reflected in the survey data with 59% of private tenants reporting not having any children, and 34% of them saying that having no children was their ideal family size,” the study said.
Better flexibility around childcare and a greater work-life balance were also identified as important elements in supporting Scots with their family planning.
The Scottish Government has been contacted for comment.