Births and fertility
Statbel, processed by Statistics Flanders
Births only refer to the number of live births to women of the legally resident population with an official place of residence (main domicile) in the Flemish Region.
Live births: all children who have shown a sign of life at the time of birth (heartbeat, pulsation of the umbilical cord, breathing, muscle contraction, bending of the limbs, crying or facial expression), excluding stillborn children (see definition of the data source Statbel).
The newborns can be divided by nationality between those with a Belgian nationality, those with a nationality of one of the EU countries (EU27 nationality) and those with a non-EU nationality (non-EU27 nationality). Newborns with an unknown nationality are counted here in the group with a non-EU27 nationality.
Fertility in a demographic sense refers to the number of births actually realized per woman.
The fertility rate by age (or age-specific fertility rate) is the ratio between the number of live births in women of a certain age and the (average) number of women of that age.
The total fertility rate (TFR) is the sum of the fertility rate by age over all childbearing ages (usually from 15 to 49 years). The outcome can be understood as the number of children a woman would have in her reproductive years if she lived with the fertility rate of the year considered at any age.
Statistical services use 2 provisions of age x when compiling demographic parameters, based on the so-called 'double classification' for age:
1. age according to last birthday: number of past birthdays;
2. age according to the year of birth: number of whole years between the observation year and the year of birth.
Depending on the available data, one of these provisions is used:
• Evolution TFR in the observation period -> age (x) according to the last birthday (own calculations)
• Age-specific fertility rates -> age (x) according to last birthday
• TFR for Belgian and foreign women -> age (x) according to last birthday
• TFR per municipality of the Flemish Region (in the last 3 observation years) -> with age (x) according to the year of birth (own calculations)
• TFR in European perspective, 2019 -> age (x) according to last birthday (standard for Eurostat).
In our own calculations, the TFR values for the ages of 15 to 49 years have been reported.
Inspection shows that the results for TFR do not differ substantially from each other according to the two age determinations (differences in results usually only appear from the 3rd decimal digit after the decimal point).
Remarks on quality
Statbel reports on its public website: "The statistics on births and fertility are drawn up on the basis of two sources: the declaration forms for births at the municipal civil registry and the National Register [of natural persons]. The first source is the most important and most extensive one. It provides a lot of information on all the children born in the country (de facto births) and on their parents. The second source is the fastest. However, it only provides information on the births of children whose mother is registered in the National Register. By combining these two sources and using the National Register as a basic source from 2010 on, the statistics only record live births to women legally resident in Belgium, regardless of whether these births take place in Belgium or abroad. These births are broken down according to the administrative units of the country, according to the main characteristics of the mother and according to certain characteristics of the newborn child. A number of fertility indicators can also be derived from it. In this way, it is possible to position the level and evolution of the country's demographic dynamics."
The declaration of birth forms (with the municipal civil registry and the National Register) are in the first place centralised at the level of the regions and communities. They contain much more information about the births, including medical data, than is stored in the National Register. The Agency for Care and Health is authorised by the Government of Flanders to process these declaration forms (under the supervision of appointed physician officials). They therefore form the basis for birth statistics provided by the Agency for Care and Health.
The declaration forms provide additional information to complement what is already stored in the National Register (birth rank of the child, level of education of the child's mother, etc.). Sometimes there is conflicting information from both sources (e.g. about the age of the mother, her place of residence or her nationality); in such cases Statbel gives priority to the information in the National Register.
The final official statistics on births (and also on deaths) can only be drawn up after the information intended for transfer to Statbel, contained in the birth declaration forms, reaches the Belgian Statistical Office. This explains why provisional figures are also published in addition to the final figures. It is a compromise between the need for completeness and accuracy of the statistics on the one hand and timeliness on the other.
The coordination of all registrations for compiling the official birth statistics is the responsibility of Statbel. Therefore, the various federal and regional partners involved meet regularly to better align their activities.
Statbel only considers ‘official births', i.e. newborns whose mothers were legally resident in Belgium (or its regions) at the time of birth and are considered to be part of the legally resident population (with the exception of the waiting register for asylum seekers). This is based (since 2010) on the registers for the legally resident population in the National Register of Natural Persons (NR) as a reference source.
Births to mothers who do not belong to the 'legally resident population' of Belgium (diplomats, visiting persons, persons without valid residence permits, persons registered in the waiting register for asylum seekers, etc.) are not included in the official birth statistics. Births of children born abroad to mothers legally resident in Belgium (and for the Flemish Region, for example, children born in the Walloon Region) are included.
The federal government reports periodically on the statistics regarding births (and deaths) to various international bodies, including Eurostat and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The Growing Up Agency also produces its own birth statistics based on its own birth records in Flanders (births in the Flemish Region and partly in the Brussels-Capital Region as well). These statistics provide important additional and more precise information for their purpose.
The Agency for Care and Health is responsible for the correct registration of births based on the declaration forms/certificates provided for births (and deaths). The verified data are then transferred to Statbel according to current standards and procedures.
The Study Centre for Perinatal Epidemiology (SPE), subsidised by the Agency for Care and Health, is also a partner for compiling birth statistics, particularly with regard to the medical aspects of childbirth and the health of mother and child. These perinatal data/activities are registered separately by the SPE, in collaboration with the Flemish maternity clinics and based on the registrations of the federal e-Birth system (the new national electronic birth declaration system). A detailed annual report is published on this subject.
Agency for Care and Health (AZG): Figures - Birth and delivery
e-Birth: electronic birth declaration system
Growing Up Agency: Figures and reports
National Register: National register of natural persons
Statbel: Births and fertility
Study Centre for Perinatal Epidemiology (SPE): Key trends in birth and delivery