Institute of Sociological, Political and Juridical Research
Ss. Cyril and Methodius University, Skopjel

Differentials of Fertility in the Republic of Macedonia (empirical research)

Differentials of Fertility 
in the Republic of Macedonia


1.1 Scope of Study:

At the time of the last Census (1994) in the Republic of Macedonia, fertility had reached the level of 2.2 births per woman and an annual rate of population increase 1.01%. After that, TFR had been declining, and showed 1.9 children per woman in 1998. This number indicates Macedonian position in the group of countries where fertility is below the level of replacement.

The reasons for such a situation are complex - cultural, demographic, economic and health-related factors. At the same time it is not possible to ignore current transitional position of the Republic of Macedonia: transit to the market economy and pluralistic political system. The reasons have not been completely clarified yet, but we can mention several reasons for the decreasing number of live births. We could point out the ageing of the fertile contingent, the insufficient financial security, the small homes etc. Essential factors are the rate of unemployment of women and their position in the family and society.

At the same time, the subsequent decline in the birth rate has been also due to diminishment in the effectiveness of the state's demographic pro-natalistic policy in the country.

The purpose of this survey is to state general fertility in the Republic of Macedonia using measures for current fertility and cumulative fertility and also to emphasize some differentials of fertility.

1.2 Objectives of the Study:

The specific objectives of this research paper are:

  • to show and analyze the levels and trends of fertility in the Republic of Macedonia;
  • to examine some demographic and socio-economic factors that affect fertility in Macedonia.

1.3. Data Sources and Limitation:

The main sources of the data for this study come from:

  • Census data from the Statistical Office of the Republic of Macedonia
  • Data from the Vital Register of the Statistical Office of the Republic of Macedonia

There is a limitation of the data which makes a shortage in our description of fertility in the Republic of Macedonia. There is still lack of sufficient data about fertility determinants that can be taken from fertility surveys. In this study the available data from the Census are used with percent of risk about its accuracy. Errors could be coverage and content errors. At the same time, during the research, we were faced with lack of data concerning the level of fertility (A.S.F.R.) by place of residence, for the year 1994. To examine differential fertility, available data such as children ever born by selected background characteristics of mothers such as place of residence, ethnic belonging, economic activity and religion will be used.

1.4 Methodology:

Due to shortage of data, the descriptive analysis is used only in the present study. Using measures of fertility, such as Crude Birth Rate, Age Specific Fertility Rate, Total Fertility Rate and Cumulative Fertility follows a descriptive analysis approach. To evaluate data of 1994 Census, UN Index is used.

1.5 Data Evaluation:

The present study is primarily based on the Census data. Some limitations of the Census data give us cause to assess their quality. Also, the reported data on fertility and computation are accepted with all disadvantages of using the census data. So, this subsection deals with evaluation of the age and sex data of the last Census (1994) and evaluating and adjusting reported fertility data.

Several methods are used to evaluate the level of accuracy of census data. These methods are: Whipple's, Myer's and U.N. Indexes. Unfortunately, the first and second indexes are applicable when the age is reported by single years only but the U.N. index can be used for the five-year age group. In this study the UN Index for detecting possible errors in the census data, is used for the shortage of data.

UN Index consists of sex ratios and age ratios. It is well known that when the index is less than 20, data has very high accuracy. If it is between 20 to 40, it means moderate inaccuracy and more than 40, it means very high inaccuracy. (Kpedekpo G.M.K. 1982). Table (1.4) present calculation for age -sex ratios using UN Index .

Table (1.4) Result of Application of U.N. Index to Test Accuracy
of the 1994 Census of the Republic of Macedonia

Age Group Analyses of Sex ratio Analyses of Age-Ratios (male) Analyses of Age-Ratios (female)
Ratios Successive Difference Ratios Deviation from 100 Ratios Deviation from 100
0 - 4 106.25          
5 - 9 105.83 +0.42 102.10 +2.1 102.10 +2.1
10-14 105.44 +0.39 103.05 +3.05 102.73 +2.73
15-19 104.41 01.03 101.09 +1.9 101.60 +1.6
20-24 104.38 +0.03 98.05 -1.95 97.35 -2.65
25-29 102.80 +1.58 99.86 -0.14 100.61 +0.61
30-34 102.76 +0.04 99.52 -0.48 100.33 +0.33
35-39 104.43 -1.67 103.32 +3.32 100.87 +0.87
40-44 101.10 +3.33 107.38 +7.38 107.26 +7.26
45-49 96.60 +4.5 91.63 -8.37 93.85 -6.15
50-54 9605 +0.55 97.32 -2.68 96.63 -3.37
55-59 93.97 +2.08 101.79 +1.79 101.45 +1.45
60-64 91.10 +2.87 69.60 -30.4 63.01 -36.99
65+ 84.42 +6.68        
Total   25.17   63.56   64.66
Mean   1.94   5.30   5.39
U.N. Index = 3*1.94 + (5.30+5.39) = 16.51
Source: Calculate from 1994 Census of the Republic of Macedonia

The output from the examination of the reliability of Census data is less than 20 (U.N.Index = 16.51). It gives us a direction that the Census data, of 1994 are accurate which give us freedom in the coming scientific calculation, explanation and conclusion.


back to top

This section begins with a discussion of the levels, trends and patterns of fertility. 
Fertility levels and trends are portrayed using Crude Birth Rate (CBR), General fertility Rate (GFR), Total fertility Rate (TFR) and Fertility pattern with Age Specific Fertility Rate (ASFR).

2.1 Fertility Levels and Trends in Macedonia:

Crude Birth Rate (CBR) is customarily shown per thousand inhabitants. General Fertility Rate (GFR) is obtained by relating the number of births in the given year to the female population in the reproductive age. Total Fertility Rate (TFR) is a hypothetical (average) woman would have if during her life her childbearing behavior were same. It is average number of children that expect that women will bear during the reproductive period.

Table (2.1) shows Crude Birth Rate and General Fertility Rate in the Republic of Macedonia during the last century.

Table (2.1) Review of the Movement of the Population 
in the Republic of Macedonia: 1931-1998

Years Crude birth rate General fertility Rate Crude marriages rate
1931 37.6 165.8 9.8
1948 40.7 175.5 11.9
1953 37.9 158.5 9.0
1961 29.9 126.1 8.4
1971 22.9 89.9 8.9
1981 20.6 80.4 13.6
1990 16.6 - 7.4
1991 17.1 68 7.4
1992 16.2 - 7.5
1993 15.4 - 7.3
1994 17.2 67 8.1
1995 16.5 - 8.0
1996 15.8 - 7.1
1997 14.7 - 7.0
1998 14.6 - 7.0

Source: Statistical Yearbook of the Republic of Macedonia, 1998. (-) is not avaliable

At the beginning of the last century, the Crude Birth Rate in the Republic of Macedonia was exclusively high (about 40 per thousend inhabitans), and this trend ended in the 1950 when the rates came with constant tendency of decreasing until today. In 1998, it reached only 14.6 per thousand population. (See: Table 2.1)

The number of births per thousand women (GFR) showed the similar trend. In 1931, GFR was 176 births per 1000 women. After 30 years (1961) this number dropped to 126. A dramatic drop was shown after 10 years. In 1971 the General Fertility Rate was only 89.9 per thousand women. Then, it decreased to 80 in 1981, to 68 in 1991 and to 67 per thousand women in 1994.

Without a detailed analysis, it is not possible to highlight the factors, which are behind the low level of fertility. But, according to the available data, the marriage rates during the 1947-1951 were 11.8 per 1000 inhabitants, and after 1953, they decreased to 7 per thousand. (See: Table 2.1)

As expected, the TFR in the Republic of Macedonia also decreased from 2.2. in 1988 to only 1.9 children per woman in 1998. (See: Table 2.2.)

Table ( 2.2) Total Fertility Rate 
in the Republic of Macedonia: 1988-1998


Rates 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998
TFR 2.2 2.1 2.3 2.1 2.2 2.2. 2.2 2.1 1.9 1.9

Source: Calculate from Statistical yearbook of the Republic of Macedonia: 1988- 1998

Computation of the Total Fertility Rate of the Republic of Macedonia and comparison with other countries in the Balkan Peninsula we can say that TFR in the Republic of Macedonia has the similar level with TFR in the Republic of Albania (2.8) and Turkey (2.7). The rest of the Balkan countries have a lower fertility: TFR of Yugoslavia is 1.8, of Romania is 1.3, of Bulgaria is 1.2 and of Greece is 1.4.

2.2 The Age Pattern of Fertility:

As it is known, to deliver a child has biological limitation followed by social determinants and causes. Fertility level is directly influenced by woman's age. In this sense the ASFR is the best measure to show the age impact on fertility. Age Specific Fertility Rate (ASFR) provides information about the level of fertility of women of the specific ages on an annual basis. According to the available data from vital registration, we can also present the fertility pattern in the Republic of Macedonia from 1986 to 1998. Illustration is presented in Table (2.3).

Table (2.3) Age Specific Fertility Rates: 1986 - 1998

Age of mother
Years 15-19 20-24 25-29 30-34 35-39 40-44 45-49
1986 45.1 177.1 142.6 62.8 21 4.9 0.5
1987 48.3 174.5 144.5 61.8 20 4.8 0.7
1988 47.7 174.5 137.5 59.4 19.2 5 0.5
1989 45.2 164.4 132 55.1 18.1 3.8 0.3
1990 43.1 161 130.7 54.5 18.9 3.9 0.3
1991 46.3 181.5 148.1 60.0 18.7 3.5 0.3
1992 44.1 174.4 144.9 56.3 17.1 3.2 0.2
1994 45.6 165.7 145.5 65 19.1 4.2 0.3
1995 44.1 156.3 140.3 61.9 18.3 3.8 0.3
1996 38.6 153.7 137 61.1 17.7 3.7 0.3
1997 36.3 140.1 127.7 58.5 17.6 3.5 0.3
1998 33.3 134.9 129.5 59.5 18.9 3.2 0.2

Source: Calculated from Census data and vital registration for each year.

Given the data of table (2.3), which demonstrates the Age Specific Fertility Rate in the Republic of Macedonia, the usual pattern of fertility is shown. Relatively, more children were born to mothers of younger ages: 20-24 and 25 - 29 than in the older ages.

Figure (1) Age Specific Fertility Pattern in the Republic of Macedonia 
(1986 -1998)

Figure (1) illustrates that fertility declines in all age groups. In the oldest ages the number of born children declines slowly and tremendously declines for the two age groups from 20 to 24 and from 25 to 29.

Table (2.4) Percent Distribution of Age-Specific Fertility Rate, (ASFR), 
TFR and the Mean Age of Childbearing, Census 1994

Age group Total
A.S.F.R. %
15-19 0.0456 10.24
20-24 0.1657 37.20
25-29 0.1455 32.67
30-34 0.065 14.59
35-39 0.0191 4.29
40-44 0.0042 0.94
45-49 0.0003 0.07
Total 0.4454 100
TFR 2.227  
Mean 25.4  

Source:Calculated from 1994 Census data

Percentage of Age Specific Fertility Rate indicates differentials in fertility between age groups of women. Almost two-thirds of the total number of born children in 1994, belong to the two age groups of women aged 20-24 and 25-29. (See: table 2.4)

According to the United Nations classification of age-specific fertility distribution, Macedonian fertility belongs to the "early peak" type. For the whole country the peak of fertility occurs at the age group 20-24 years.

Among women in the age group 20-24, 37% participated in the reproduction of the Macedonian population. Very close to this percentage were women in the age group 25-29 with 33%. Far away from this level of fertility were the last three oldest groups of women in the reproductive period. On the other side, women who belonged to the age group 35-39 with 4%, and women in the youngest ages (15-19) with 10% were shown.

2.3 Cumulative Fertility:

The mean numbers of children ever born to number of women, obtained from the Census of 1994 are shown in Table (2.5).

Table (2.5) Average Number of Children Ever Born in 1994

Age of mother Census 1994
15-19 0.04
20-24 0.57
25-29 1.43
30-34 1.98
35-39 2.32
40-44 2.45
45-49 2.85

Source: Calculated from 1994 Census data

The table above indicates that a woman by the end of her reproductive period at the time of the Census (1994) had an average completed fertility of 2.9 children.

Comparison between Total fertility rate and Cumulative fertility or Completed fertility gives us a more precise situation about fertility in Macedonia. This comparison means comparison between hypothetical situation (expected number of children per woman) and cumulative fertility as a real number where the last age group in the reproductive period of women: 45-49 shows completed fertility.

Table (2.6) Total Fertility (TFR) Rate and Completed Fertility (CF) 
in the Republic of Macedonia, Census 1994

Fertility Measure Total
CF 2.85
TFR 2.23
% 131.8
Difference (CF, TFR) 0.62
(%) Difference 24.1

Source: Calculated from 1994 Census data

This preceding discussion about Macedonian fertility, the difference between TFR and Completed fertility is about 0.7 child. According to this we can say that TFR and completed fertility are different, where completed fertility shows higher level than Total Fertility Rate. The number of child per woman in Macedonia is 2.9 and TFR is 2.2. In other words, the completed fertility of women was higher for 32% than the reported TFR. This is mainly due to the fact that fertility tends to decrease in the recent years. Hence, total fertility rate is substantially lower than cumulative fertility level.


back to top

Fertility could differ from one society to another and from one subgroup to another in the same society. Fertility could differ according to some biological or socio-economic variables. In the present study, some socio-economic variables are examined in relation with their impact on fertility in Macedonia.

3.1 Urban and Rural Fertility Differentials:

In general, there are fertility differentials between urban and rural areas. This could be due to the variation in the availability of education and health facilities or accessibility of family planning services that could influence fertility.

Table (3.1) Urban-Rural Fertility Differentials 
in the Republic of Macedonia, 1994

Type of Place Age of mother
15-19 20-24 25-29 30-34 35-39 40-44 45-49
Urban 0.04 0.47 1.27 1.78 1.99 2.06 2.20
Rural 0.07 0.70 1.67 2.32 2.65 2.89 3.19
Source: Calculated from 1994 Census data

Table (3.1) indicates that fertility in the rural areas are comparatively higher than in the urban areas. The magnitude of differentials has enlarged in older ages (25 and above) than the younger ages (15 - 24). (See: Table 3.1).

Fertility at the end of the reproductive period in urban areas riches 2.20 children per woman, and at the same age in rural areas fertility reaches 3.19 children per woman. Both areas show that the numbers are above the reported Total fertility Rate in the Republic of Macedonia in 1994.

3.2 Fertility Differentials by Economic Activity of Women:

The relation between economic activity and fertility of female population also has a great meaning, particularly when fertility shows a decreasing trend. The importance of this type of relation stems from the increased proportion of working women outside home and transition from traditional to modern type of production. It has been stated in the literature that some women are employed outside home, this provides them with an alternative role rather than bearing and rearing of children. Numerous studies have shown a negative relationship between family size and the extent of female participation in the labor force.

Table (3.2) Fertility Differentials by Economic Activity 
of Women in the Republic of Macedonia, 1994

Age ofMother Children Ever born by Economic Activity of Women
Active Inactive Unemployed Self employed Sustenance 
15-19 0.12 0.07 0.07 0.17 0.05
20-24 0.59 0.46 0.45 0.76 0.63
25-29 1.30 1.15 1.12 1.55 1.68
30-34 1.71 1.64 1.61 1.96 2.43
35-39 1.87 1.89 1.88 2.15 2.82
40-44 1.91 2.0 2.00 2.36 3.01
45-49 1.96 2.02 2.10 2.42 3.39
Source: Computed from Census Data, 1994

Table (3.2) shows difference between women is fertility by economic active status. At the end of the reproductive period, the figures indicate that "sustenance person" reached the highest group of fertility (3,39), followed by "self employed" (2.42), "unemployed", (2,10), "inactive" (2,02) and" working women" (1.96) children. 
This means that the working woman has the lowest fertility because she mostly does cost-benefit analysis for her new baby and due to the high revenue of her work she prefers to keep work than to bear more children.

3.3 Fertility Differentials by Women's Ethnicity Belonging:

Ethnicity is the most distinctive feature of fertility in Macedonia and discussion of fertility would be incomplete without a brief examination between ethnicity and fertility.The initial assumption is that number of children ever born is bigger among the non-Macedonian women.

Table 3.3 Women's Ethnicity and Number of Children Ever Born

Age of mother Ethnicity
Mace-donian Albanian Turkish Roma Vlach Serbian Other
15-19 0.05 0.04 0.12 0.25 0.05 0.04 0.09
20-24 0.55 0.51 0.82 1.33 0.28 0.59 0.6
25-29 1.33 1.62 1.75 2.24 1.06 1.24 1.42
30-34 1.75 2.52 2.40 2.63 1.42 1.70 1.81
35-39 1.92 3.15 2.74 3.15 1.70 1.92 2.03
40-44 1.98 3.63 3.12 3.55 1.80 2.03 2.46
45-49 2.07 4.10 3.55 4.01 1.88 2.07 3.05
Source: Computed from Census Data, 1994

Table (3.3) shows the cumulative fertility among differential ethnic groups. According to obtained data, number of children expresses difference with the ethnicity belonging of women. More precisely, Macedonian woman finished her fertility with 2.07 children. Around this number is Vlach woman (1.88 children) and Serbian woman 2.07 children. Twice larger number of completed fertility is shown among Albanian and Romany women with 4 children. Turkish woman had 3.55 children. These figures indicate that the major part of fertility differential is related to ethnicity. (See: Table 3.3)

The comparison of data from the aspect of particular age group, shows that differences and oscillations are not very significant among women from 15 to 24 years old. (See: Table 3.3) The magnitude becomes wider in the older ages.

The comparison of data on average number of children ever born at the end of reproductive age for the whole country (2.2) indicates different dynamics among different ethnicities to reach this number. A Macedonian woman reaches this number almost at the end of the reproductive period. The situation is the same with Vlach and Romany woman. On the other hand, a Romany woman reaches this number at age 25-29, and Albanian woman and Turkish woman reach 2 children in the next age group: 30-34.

3.4 Fertility Differentials by Religion:

Many social authors (Whelpton, Campbel, 1966, Lenski, Gehard, 1977; ) consider religion as an emphasis institution in the society. Regardless of religion as a social characteristic, it has a big influence on the number of children per woman.

Table (3.4) Women's Religion and Number of Children Ever Born

Age of mother Religion
Orthodox Catholic Islam Christian Other
15-19 0.05 0.02 0.07 0.05 0.06
20-24 0.54 0.62 0.62 1.02 0.49
25-29 1.16 1.23 1.65 1.38 1.18
30-34 1.74 1.87 2.51 1.77 1.75
35-39 1.91 1.95 3.22 1.94 2.00
40-44 1.97 1.91 3.72 2.01 2.17
45-49 2.06 2.2 4.02 2.17 2.16
Source: Computed from Census Data, 1994

With regard to that aspect of religion we can classify the results into two groups of women. The first one are women who have around the reported average number of children ever born at the end of reproductive age in the Republic of Macedonia in 1994. The second are women who have nearly twice the number of children than is expected.

Data of Table (3.4) shows that the Orthodox, Catholics and Christians are in the first group, while Moslem women are in the second group.


back to top

  • It is not possible from this type of study to get answers to all possible questions related to fertility. It is well known that the Census data are not enough to study fertility levels and differentials. Unfortunately, the last fertility survey was conducted in Macedonia during 1986.
  • In order to be close to the main purpose of this study, the conclusion could be as follows:
    Number of population in the Republic of Macedonian tends to decrease. This is due to a substantial decrease in the birth rate since 1953.
  • From 1953 the Crude birth Rate decreased from 37 live births per thousand inhabitants, to only 17 live births in 1998. Reasons for this situation are complex of cultural, demographic and economic.
  • The general and short diagnosis on the current fertility in Macedonia would be the following: population is around the minimum level of replacement 2.2 (in 1994) with tendency to decreasing to 1.9 (1997 and 1998)
  • Age Specific Fertility Rate shows "early peak" and mean age at birth is 25 years.
  • Completed fertility among women in rural areas is much higher (319 children) than in urban areas( 2.20 children ).
  • Ethnicity shows substantial variations in fertility. The big variation is between the two main ethnicities in Macedonia: Completed fertility among Albanian women is much higher (4.10) than among Macedonian women (2.07)
  • Also, religion portrays a remarkable differential in fertility. Moslems have the highest level of fertility - 4.02 compared with Orthodox women 2.06 children per woman. .

As mentioned above, the available data on fertility in Macedonia is not enough to do a sufficient analysis of fertility. Hence, the single recommendation built on the result of the present study is to undertake fertility surveys to analyze fertility on a solid ground.


back to top

  • Blutato, RA & Lee, RD, ed. (1983): "An Overview of Fertility Determinants in Developing Countries". In: RA, Blutato & RD, Lee, ed. "Determinants of Fertility in Developing Countries", Studies in Population. Vol. 2. Academic Press. New York.
  • Bongarts, J. and Potter, Robert, (1978): "Fertility, Biology and Behavior. An analysis of the Proximate Determinants", Academic Press. New York.
  • Bouvier L.F. & Rao, S.L. (1981): "Socioreligious Factors in Fertility Decline", Ballinger Publishing Company, Cambridge, Mass.
  • Davis, K. And Blake, J. (1956): "Social Structure and Fertility: An Anallytical Framwork" In: Economic Development and Cultural Change, Vol.4.
  • Freedman, Ronald, Whelpton, P.K. (1963): "Size of Family and Preference of Children of Each Sex" In: Marriage and the Family, Houghton Mifflin Company.
  • Jovanovich Amalija, (1998): " Fertility and Family Planing in the Republic of Macedonia" Metamorfoza, Skopje.
  • Kpedekpo G.M.K., (1982): "Essentials of Demography Analysis for Africa", London Heinemann.
  • Lenski Gerhard, (1977): "The Religious Facto / A Sociological Study of Religion's Impact on Politics, Economics, and Family Life", Greenwood, Press.
  • Statistical Yearbook of the Republic of Macedonia: (1994), Statistical Office of Macedonia, Skopje.
  • Statistical Yearbook of the Republic of Macedonia: (1998), Statisticall Office of Macedonia, Skopje.
  • Unated Nations Manual X, (1983): "Indirect Techniques for Demographic Estimation" New York.
  • Whelpton, Pascal K., A.A. Cambell and J.E. Patterson, (1966): "Fertility and family Planning in the Unated States". Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Yaukey David, (1961): "Fertility Differences in a Modernizing Country" Princenton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.