IRELAND’S population increased last year thanks to having the EU’s highest number of births, lowest number of deaths, and in spite of about 40,000 emigrating.
There were over 75,000 births during the year — the most in Europe, while 29,000 died, giving the country a healthy natural population increase of more than 10%, the highest by far of any EU country.
However, this was balanced by the number of people leaving in response to the jobs crisis, resulting in a population increase of just 6,000 or 1.3%.
This brought the number living in the Republic to 4,456,000, as the EU total topped the half billion mark for the first time.
The latest Eurostat figures showed emigration has returned to Ireland with a vengeance, and according to the ESRI, this is just the start.
Economist Thomas Conefrey says they forecast another 70,000 will leave this year, many of them people who came during the boom years. “We saw this trend in the 1980s also with significant increases in the numbers of people that tend to emigrate to places with higher employment opportunities,” he said.
If they did not leave, the unemployment rate, currently at 13.4%, would be significantly higher, he pointed out. It is expected to continue for another five years at least until job opportunities grow sufficiently.
More than 5 million babies were born in the 27 EU countries last year, slightly down on 2008, but there was a considerable increase in emigration, which resulted in an overall population increase of 1.4 million to 501 million.
The lowest birth rates were in Germany, Austria, Portugal and Italy while the highest were in Ireland, Britain, France and Sweden.
There were more deaths than births in ten countries, including Bulgaria, Latvia, Hungary and Germany.
The countries with the biggest influx of people were Luxembourg, Sweden, Slovenia and Italy, while Ireland and Lithuania recorded the highest percentage leaving.
Ireland maintained Europe’s highest birthrate in the face of the euro-bloc’s worst recession.
The birthrate in Ireland was 16.8 children born per 1,000 people last year, the highest in the EU, according to Eurostat figures published yesterday. The rate was 17 per 1,000 the previous year, also the region’s highest.
The figures offer the prospect of future growth to Ireland, where the economy shrank about 10% in the past two years following the bursting of a real estate bubble and the financial crisis. Over the two-year period, that marks the deepest recession among countries using the euro.
They also underline the divergence with Germany, the EU’s largest economy, where the birthrate was 7.9 per 1,000 last year and the total population declined 0.25% to below 82 million for the first time in at least 10 years. Both countries had net migration, with more people leaving than settling.
Ireland’s higher birthrate kept its overall population growing at 0.13%, Eurostat said.
Birth rates in the UK and France placed those countries second and third in the region, with 12.8 and 12.7 childbirths per 1,000 inhabitants.
The EU’s total population grew by 1.4 million in 2009 to 501.1 million, Eurostat said. The region-wide birth rate was 10.7 per 1,000.
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