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Under the baseline scenario of the latest population projections issued by Eurostat, the European Union’s population will decrease by almost 4%, or 20 million people, between 2018 and 2100.
The total fertility rate in Europe was just 1.53 in 2021, well below the “replacement rate” of 2.1. In some countries the drop is massive: in Spain and Italy, for instance, the already very low fertility rate in 2010 – 1.31 and 1.46 respectively – decreased to just 1.19 and 1.25 in 2021 (not surprisingly, Italy is supposed to suffer the most significant demographic decline in this century, and lose as many as 9 million inhabitants). Ireland went from 1.85 to 1.78; Belgium from 1.70 to 1.60. Even the Northern European countries are experiencing a significant decrease of their rate: Norway went from 1.72 to 1.55; Sweden from 1.85 to 1.67; Finland from 1.65 to 1.46. And the average age of first-time mothers –  and parents – is ever increasing.

The falling birthrate is not always caused by people’s choices – by a general disaffection to the idea of having kids. In fact, if people have less children than in the past – or no children at all – by choice, the resulting lower birthrate should not be considered a problem per se, but rather simply handled by politics and institutions, by implementing policy analysis and measures to address population ageing, and finding solutions for the financial balance of the social security system.

A large share of citizens is suffering from this low birth rate, though; the majority of Western countries is in fact experiencing a “fertility gap”, an unbalance between the number of children people wish to have, and the number of children they actually have. More or less in every survey, the “replacement rate”, 2.1 children per woman, turns also out as the desired rate: in average, people want 2.something kids, but they end up having less. And this is a social and political issue, indeed.

Several aspects may encourage or obstruct the choice to have children, such as one's economic and professional situation, equality within the couple, infertility, work-life balance; thus reinforcing or bringing down the fertility gap. It’s time to start and work to close the gap, to allow people to have as many children as they want, and most of all: when they want. EU institutions must show leadership by making the fertility gap a priority in the fields of health, labor market, and gender equality.

The Why Wait Agenda, with the support of Equimundo: Center for Masculinities and Social Justice and the MenCare Global Campaign, calls upon candidates in the European elections to join our effort to make the fertility gap a European priority and therefore sign the below European Parliamentary Member Pledge.

On my election to the European Parliament, I will:

- support the increase of EU funding for and improvement of collaboration in all actions related to fertility awareness and fertility education, with the goal of reaching every gender and every age group within reproductive age. Support, according to Irhec recommendation, the need of research about people’s knowledge, attitudes and behaviours relating to reproductive health and family formation in different countries, as well as the need of developing educational resources for the public and health and education professionals that are inclusive of all communities. Support the inclusion of reproductive health education in health and education policy and practice, and advocate for a government sponsored fertility health education program in EU countries. Knowledge is power, and reproductive health awareness improves reproductive health and facilitates decision-making in family planning.

- support and advocate for parental leave policies that, according to the MenCare Parental Leave Platform, are: equal for women and men; non-transferable between parents; paid according to each parent’s salary; adequate in length for each parent, with a minimum of 16 weeks for each; offered with job protection; encouraged and incentivized; inclusive for workers of all kinds; combined with subsidized, high-quality childhood education and care, and other policies to ensure equity in all caregiving, particularly in low-income settings; supportive of diverse caregivers and caregiving; enshrined and enforced in national law and in international agreements.
This is the moment for the European Union to invest in equal workplaces for parents and caregivers, free from gender stereotypes.

- advocate for a cultural shift towards equal parenting, encouraging both men’s and women’s caregiving and a diversity of family structures, and abandoning gender stereotypes about care activities. Shared parenting is crucial in reducing the fertility gap. It is the future, let's make it the present.

- support actions and initiatives to eradicate the prejudice at the root of the discrimination of women, like viewing women as potentially being “at risk of motherhood” in the workplace, and to sanction employers that demote or discriminate pregnant or newly-parent employees. A person does not suddenly lose their skills because they have given birth and/or have a child at home. The “motherhood penalty” must be obliterated.

- reject any discrimination in medical assisted reproduction and advocate to guarantee access to reproductive medicine and techniques for all citizens, no matter their marital status or sexual orientation, in order to include all those who need it but that in several EU countries are now denied access to MAR. The option of resorting to reproductive medicine must be universal.

- reject and advocate against any limitation of reproductive and sexual rights, like contraception and abortion, as a policy strategy to increase the birthrate. Birthrate is not a value for itself, and it’s good only as long as the children are longed-for. Banning or restricting the right or access to contraception and abortion is not the way to act for a rise of the birthrate. No one should be forced to or trapped in a pregnancy against their will.

- consider the fact of being able to have a child when one wants to, without having to undergo undue pressure to postpone or forgo this choice, as a reproductive right. Along contraception and abortion – options that allow people to choose not to have children, stating the fundamental right to have control of one’s own body – should be the right to choose to have children, without having to experience the fertility gap.

To sign the pledge, please write to


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