For French President Emmanuel Macron, more babies are vital to maintain the country's national vigor. Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has made encouraging more Italian women to give birth a top priority.

But, demographers and economists say, Europe's attempts to boost its flagging birth rate are missing the mark. They urge a rethink — including a change of tack to accept and embrace the economic realities of an aging population.

"It's very, very difficult to increase fertility," said Anna Matysiak who, as associate professor of labor market and family dynamics at the University of Warsaw, has observed years of underachieving pro-natalist policies across central Europe.