Ireland’s fertility rate one of highest in EU

Ireland still has one of the highest fertility rates in the EU, despite falling numbers of babies born to women in the Republic.

New EU figures show Ireland has the third highest fertility rate after France and Sweden with 1.77 births per woman in 2017.

A total of 61,824 births were recorded in the Republic two years ago. Despite the comparatively high levels, the Irish fertility rate has been falling steadily in recent years and is now down 11% from its rate of 1.98 births per woman in 2012. It was as high as 3.85 in 1970.

The EU average is now 1.59 — down from its recent peak in 2010 of 1.62 — and far below the population replacement level (without the effect of migration) which is considered to be 2.1 live births per woman.

The lowest fertility rate is found in Malta at 1.26 births per woman, with other low fertility levels all found in Mediterranean countries including Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Greece and Portugal.

The figures show that women across the EU are putting off having children until later in life. Ireland had the fifth oldest average age for first-time mothers at 30.3 years with Italian women the oldest at 31.1 years.

“Women in the EU-28 appear to be having fewer children while they are young, and more later,” a Eurostat spokesperson said. Bulgaria and Romania had the highest level of births to mothers aged under 20, at around 14% of all births.

The share in Ireland was 3.9%. Ireland had the second highest proportion of births to women aged 30-39 at almost 57% of all births in 2017 — just behind Spain— and the fifth highest level of births to mothers aged 40 years and over at 4.8% of the total.

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