Ireland's birth rate has plummeted 25 percent in the past decade – and first time mums are older than ever
Last year 61,016 babies were born in the Republic of Ireland.
What this mean, says experts, is that while the economy seem to only be going from strength to strength following our recovery after the Celtic Tiger crash a decade ago, birth rates are going in the other direction.
In fact, compared to 2009, when 75,554 babies were born across the country, last year was the lowest figure on record since 2002, the Central Statistics Office yearbook reveals – and with just 61,016 babies born, a fall of almost 20 percent from the peak in 2009.
Since the beginning of this century, writes The Irish Times, birth rates in Ireland peaked at 16.8 births per thousand in 2008. It is now down to 12.6 births per thousand, a decrease of 25 per cent .
However, despite the fall in births, the population of the Republic has continued to increase because of inward migration and declining deaths and now stands at almost at 5 million people.
Interestingly, Ireland now has the some of the oldest first time mothers in Europe, alongside countries like Italy, Switzerland, Spain and Greece.
These days, the average age of first time mothers in this country is 32.9 – which effectlively means that women are waiting an additional two years longer before embarking on motherhood than they were just a decadea ago.
As well as waiting longer to have their first baby, women are also having more babies in their 40s than they ever did, while the rates of teenage pregnancies has plummeted by 52.8 percent since 2006.
The reasons for these shifts are obviously complex and many, but Dublin City University economics professor Edgar Morgenroth reckon the current reluctance to have children might be because “the costs of housing and childcare are starting to bite”.
“Kids aren’t cheap and you have to live some place," Morgenroth explains to The Irish Times. "If you are living in an inappropriate place and you can’t afford to move and childcare is expensive, you will choose to have fewer kids.”
Long-term, explains the professor, this could have some pretty dire consequences for Ireland as it did for his native Germany, where in some areas the working-age population is shrinking.
“You check the age and vibrancy of a lot of places in Germany, it has had a huge effect. There are towns in Germany as big as Galway which don’t even have a cinema now.”
Interestingly, rising birth and marriage rates are often a barometer of a healthy economy, but this does not seem to be the case in the present statistics here in this country.