One third of Czech children now born out of wedlock

According to the latest government figures, a third of children born in the Czech Republic in 2007 were born out of wedlock. The percentage of extramarital newborns has been on the rise since the early 1990s, although experts say there is a difference between the Czech Republic and those European countries with the highest rates of extramarital births.

Out of more than 114,000 newborn children in the Czech Republic in 2007, 34.5 percent were born to unmarried women. While this accounts for only just over one percent of increase year on year, it confirms a steady trend which started after the fall of communism at the beginning of the 1990s. Tomáš Chrámecký is from the information department of the Czech Statistical Office.

“In the Czech Republic, 39,674 children were born out of wedlock in 2007, which accounted for 34.5 percent of all the children born in that year. Our institute has been monitoring the numbers of extramarital-born children continuously since 1919; in the 1920s and 1930s, around 12 percent of children were born outside marriage, while in the period of 1938 – 1990, their numbers ranged between four and ten percent. At the end of the 1980s, the share of children born out of wedlock began to rise, and this tendency has been persistent ever since.”

The 2007 figure of 34.5 percent puts the Czech Republic in 14th place out of 33 European countries in a 2007 study by Eurostat. But this does not mean that the Czech Republic will follow the pattern of some Western and Northern European countries where the numbers of children born outside marriage exceed 50 percent. Professor Jitka Rychtaříková is the head of the Department of Demographics and Geodemographics of the Science Faculty of Charles University in Prague.

“It doesn’t mean that those children are born to, let’s say, liberally oriented university graduates; the opposite is true. A typical mother with an extramarital birth is a woman at a young age, with low education, and being very much at risk of having an unstable partner, which means she might be single later on. The situation in the Czech Republic is in that respect different when compared to for instance Northern Europe.”

Professor Rychtaříková says that the Czech Republic is in fact more similar to Southern European countries in this respect where having children out of wedlock is not an alternative to marital births. And this pattern of single mothers from the lower strata of society only having one child might even reduce the already low Czech birth rate in the future.

“For the future, Czech fertility is at risk of being even lower than today because in the past, it was women with basic education who had the highest average number of children. And because today, around 60 percent of those women have children out of wedlock, those women will not have more children. This phenomenon might in the future decrease the overall fertility level in the Czech Republic. Today, we have 1.4 – which is below the European average – and my guess is that this could be between 1.2 and 1.3.”