Britain has kept its place as the teenage motherhood capital of Europe despite plunging rates of pregnancy among young women.
The country’s unenviable reputation for teenage births has remained unchallenged even after historic falls in pregnancy over the past decade.
While on the Continent many teenage pregnancies end in abortion, in Britain girls from poorer homes tend to keep their babies.
The country’s unenviable reputation for teenage births has remained unchallenged even after historic falls in pregnancy over the past decade
A round-up of numbers of women who had their first child before 20 showed that more than 16,000 British girls gave birth in 2015, a third more than those in the second highest western European nation, France.
As a share of all births, the percentage of first births to teen mothers was higher in Britain than in any western European country, with five former Communist states showing higher levels.
The data, from the EU’s Eurostat agency, casts doubt on the success of Government campaigns such as Tony Blair’s Teenage Pregnancy Strategy.
Teen pregnancy rates in England and Wales have halved since 2008, over years in which teenage habits have been changed by social media, long-term contraception and the morning-after pill.
Births have also fallen steeply, as middle-class girls opt for university and careers.
There were 16,622 first births to women aged between 15 and 19 in Britain in 2015 – down from 17,500 in 2014 and 19,679 in 2013.
This compares with 12,059 first births among 15 to 19-year-olds in France in 2015 and 10,813 in Germany.
The share of all first births for under-20s was 5.4 per cent in England, the same level as Lithuania, and below Hungary, Latvia, Romania and Bulgaria.
The level was below 4 per cent in France and 3 per cent in Germany.
The most recent teen pregnancy figures for England and Wales showed that only 21 girls in every 1,000 aged between 15 and 17 became pregnant in 2015, half the 42 in 1,000 recorded in 2007.
However, abortions are more common in the rest of Europe and working-class British girls are more likely to keep their babies.
Experts said attempts to prevent teen pregnancies by providing sex education, contraception and abortions have failed.
Patricia Morgan, author of The State And The Family, said: ‘We have heard for decades that more sex education would put an end to unwanted teenage pregnancy.
‘From these figures, it seems that sex education is not as successful as people think.’