Does women working outside the home automatically drive below the replacement threshold?

In a developed country, to ensure at least the replacement of its population, the fertility rate needs to be a little over 2 (2.3 I thought; 2.1 according to Borror0 in the comments), and in developing countries, this number goes significantly higher.

Note that I'm not referring the the sustainability of an environment (or, more precisely, of a society coupled with its physical location), which is a very different thing. And please do not assume overpopulation, as this question is relevant to small and sparse ones, too.

  • 1
    Please find a different word than "sustainable". Sustainable is too unclear. By more than 2.3 children, I assume you are alluding to positive population growth. It's best to spell that out. Also I would specify "Working in the home" vs. "Work outside the home". Yes "tending to their homes" means much the same thing, but it's going to be more contentious. Mar 24, 2011 at 13:42
  • Is there any reason why you chose 2.3? Is it because it's the global replacement fertility rate? Replacement fertility rate varies from country to country. In developed countries, it's around 2.1. In others, it can go up to 3.4.
    – Borror0
    Mar 24, 2011 at 13:44
  • I'm alluding to the sustainability of a society, not of a particular environment: these are very obviously different things.
    – konr
    Mar 24, 2011 at 14:48
  • 5
    This question would be better suited for a sociology site than this one. There are no odd-ball claims, or misconceptions mentioned. This isn't a bad question (though perhaps some rewording of the title would be good), but it is just our of scope for this site.
    – Ustice
    Mar 24, 2011 at 17:51
  • Loot at the data - goo.gl/kMMue, of selected countries Italy has lowest fertility, and lowest percentage of working women 52%, while Norway and Sweden have highest 75% and 77% and high fertility. Thus higher percentage working women => lower fertility doesn't seem to be the case...
    – vartec
    Jun 29, 2012 at 14:12

2 Answers 2


The online version of the CIA World Fact Book can list all countries by fertility rate.

It's not completely clear what you're asking, but I believe you're looking for a 'developed' country with a fertility rate higher than ~2.1 - 2.3. If that is your question, I offer the following countries from the World Fact Book list that are generally considered to be 'developed':

  • Argentina 2.31
  • United Arab Emirates 2.40
  • World (for reference) 2.46
  • Kuwait 2.64
  • Israel 2.70

The extreme low fertility rates of Hong Kong (1.07) and Singapore (1.11) do not prevent them from experiencing population growth, rather than steady-state or decline, because there is sufficient immigration. Hong Kong has a population growth rate of 0.448%--not huge, but it is still positive. Singapore's growth rate is 0.817%.

For reference, here are the growth rates for the counties listed earlier:

  • Argentina 1.02%
  • United Arab Emirates 3.28%
  • World 1.09%
  • Kuwait 1.99%
  • Israel 1.58%

Most developed countries are at no risk for decline because there is enough immigration to offset their lower fertility rates. Two notable exception are Germany, with a growth rate of -0.21%, and Japan, with a growth rate of -0.28%.

Edit (2011-03-25) In response to questions from the OP:

The grammar in the initial question,

Does women working outside the home automatically drive below the replacement threshold?

has a fair level of ambiguity. Based on the paragraph that followed, I interpreted that question to be asking if there are any 'developed' countries where the fertility rate is higher than the assumed steady-state value of 2.1 for 'developed', 2.33 for world average, and higher for undeveloped, countries. This is also what the ambiguously worded title question asks if you assume a direct correlation between 'developed' and 'women working':

Is the fertility rate of women who work over 2 children anywhere in the world?

In my original answer (see response above the edit line), attempted to provide evidence that there are some 'developed' countries where the fertility rate is higher than the assumed steady-state values that had been provided.

If I reinterpret the question asked in the body of the question (see first quote) as "Does having more women working outside of their own household cause lower fertility rates?" then I must answer: There is insufficient evidence to prove a cause/effect relationship between 'working women' and low fertility rates.

While there is evidence to show a correlation between the two (higher 'development' and lower fertility rate), it does not show which, if any, causes the other. You could just as easily claim that lower fertility rates cause a nation to become more developed and theorize various reasons for this phenomenon, such as: With lower fertility rates, there is less competition for food resources which allows more time to develop technology. There is further 'proof' of this in nature, where animals with lower fertility rates, such as elephants (5-10 per lifetime) or dolphins (~16 per lifetime), are much more highly developed than animals with high fertility rates, such as rabbits (10-30 per year) or fruit flies (up to 900 per lifetime).

Reproductive strategies vary between different animals, and can vary within different populations of the same animal (as evidenced by the different fertility rates of humans in different countries.) Animals with fewer offspring can afford to spend more time developing each one so that they have a higher chance of survival into their reproductive period, and that (high survival rate) is the essence of what it means to be 'developed'.

If this additional response still doesn't answer your question, please consider revising your question using proper English grammar.

  • 5
    Well, I don't want to sound rude, but you are answering a different question, sir :(
    – konr
    Mar 25, 2011 at 1:37
  • The data regarding Israel could be a bit misleading (as an Israeli, I should know). The Israeli society is made of groups which highly differ in how much they are developed (specifically, in terms of women working outside of the household) and their fertility rates. I fear that some of the "undeveloped" group may significantly change the data, leading to the wrong impression.
    – Noam Weiss
    Mar 29, 2011 at 16:08
  • 1
    "Developed country", while already a vague term, does by no means say anything about whether the women work outside the house. Nov 29, 2012 at 16:20

Crossing two reference points, I can say the answer to this is almost certainly yes, in Madagascar.

Madagascar fertilty rate: 4.72
% of Madagascar women in the workforce: 86%

Now while it's certainly possible that the remainig 14% have SO many kids that the 86% in the workforce do not exceed 2.3, it the more reasonable conclusion that Madagascar fits your case.

  • 1
    Google has a fantastic graph that you can see just about every country that exists. Here's a few that I picked to show some contrast and trends. goo.gl/XPx6k
    – Ustice
    Mar 24, 2011 at 17:59

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