Dimiter Philipov

talks about the REPRO project

Dimiter Philipov works in the Vienna Institute of Demography and is a leader of the group on Comparative European Demography. He has broad interests in demography, mainly in fertility and family issues. He was the co-ordinator of the FP7 REPRO project.

(Interview from October 2011)

What was REPRO about ?

REPRO is the acronym for "Reproductive decision-making in a macro-micro environment". The focal point in the project was the study of reproductive decisions: childbearing intentions and their subsequent realization. Individuals construct their intentions under the influence of the surrounding institutional, economic, and social environment; our research included the impact of these macro- and micro-level factors. Research on reproductive decisions was based on the socio-psychological theory of planned behaviour (TPB) whose relevance was strongly supported by the empirical findings. Panel studies were used to study realization of intentions. Thus it was found that 75% of the individuals in The Netherlands who declared intentions to have a child during the next three years did have the intended child, while this percent was considerably lower in Hungary and Bulgaria, 40% and 38%. A better understanding of the factors that frustrate the realization of intentions to have a child can provide valuable information for policy enhancement.

What policy implications can be drawn from REPRO ?

Beyond understanding why intentions may remain unrealized, use can be made of the TPB. It includes three blocks of antecedents to intentions: one on personal attitudes towards childbearing, second on the influence that others (for example parents) may have on the individual, and the third on perceived control (whether the individual can tackle with his/her employment, income, housing situation, health, etc.). Conventional policies have a direct impact on the latter block only.

Thus instruments such as financial transfers or parental leaves can be generous and still with little contribution to childbearing if the other two antecedents have a major negative impact on the construction of childbearing intentions. Therefore, if not conventional policies, new approaches can be enhanced to support the construction of positive orientation to childbearing; for example the advancement of child-friendliness in society and bringing policy information closer to the people.
REPRO studies showed that European populations differ in many respects, and therefore a policy instrument that may enhance construction of childbearing intentions in one country will not be necessarily effective in another country: copying successful policies does not guarantee their effectiveness.

In the end, do policies have an impact on the fertility of Europeans ?

Family policies are designed to support needs of families. They have an indirect effect on fertility although raising fertility is not their main objective. An analysis of three groups of policy levers carried out by INED researchers across OECD countries showed that family policies have a moderate effect on fertility. Financial transfers have little effect because they compensate too little the direct and the opportunity costs of children. Parental leaves have an ambiguous effect: they have a positive influence on the decision to have a child but at the same time tend to cause a postponement in childbearing till parents reach a higher income, so that the compensation will be higher. Instruments directed to alleviation of the problem of time allocation between work for pay and unpaid work in the family have a stronger effect, particularly so are availability of child-care facilities and part-time work.