Societal changes lead Czech women to put off motherhood

In the last 15 years, Czech society has undergone immense changes, with many Western trends crossing the former Iron Curtain. One of the most striking changes is the age at which women have their first baby; whereas in 1992 almost half of Czech women had their first child between 20 and 24, a decade later that number has fallen to just a quarter, according to a new study released this week.

As her three-year-old daughter Pavla plays with other children at her preschool, Eva, who has one other child, explains why she decided to wait until she was 29 before having her first baby.

"I studied university, after that I worked for two years, and then I did a little bit of travelling, I think there is a lot of other things to do before you have child. If you study, you would like to work to practice what you know, what you learned, and then have a child."

There are a host of reasons Czech women are having their first child later; travel and study opportunities and western style career pressures. With flat prices increasing at three times the rate of salaries in the 1990s, demographer, Jitka Rychtarikova draws particular attention to the shortage of affordable housing.

"Today the economic conditions are very different, nobody receives state apartments and the housing situation is very difficult particularly in big cities so that I think that the first factor is the very difficult housing situation for young families."

Eva's own situation is prime example of housing problems that families face.

"My husband is working as a university teacher, and I don't work. We have no real chance of getting a mortgage. We have flat, it is a very small flat, it is about 20 meters square."

Rychtarikova believes that Czech women would like to have children but that the postponement of fertility is not a deliberate choice but a pragmatic reaction to the current situation. The average Czech woman has her first baby at 26, which is still younger than Great Britain, where it is 29. Unless the reasons Czechs are having babies later are addressed, it is surely only a matter of time before Czech women catch up with their Western European counterparts.