Fertility rate below level needed to replace population

The fertility rate in Ireland has dropped below the level required for the population to reproduce itself, according to statistics released for 2012.

The CSO Report on Vital Statistics said that the fertility rate in 2012 was 1.99 children per adult woman. The rate is the projected number of children that a woman of child-bearing years will have in her lifetime. A rate of 2.1 is generally considered to be the level at which the population would replace itself in the long run, if migration is ignored.

According to Eurostat the EU average rate is 1.58, although it has actually improved in the last 10 years.

Ireland’s rate is still one of the highest in the EU along with France, Serbia, and Iceland, which have rates of between 2 and 2.1.

The lowest rate of fertility within the EU in 2012 was in Portugal at 1.28, followed closely by Spain, Poland and Slovakia with 1.3.

According to research by the Max Planck Institute of Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Germany, the recession has impacted on birth rates in the EU and as unemployment rises in a country fertility decreases.

Michaela Kreyenfeld of the MPIDR said: “The financial crisis hit Europe at a time when birth rates in many countries had just begun rising again.”

In the 1980s Ireland had the highest fertility rate in the EU at 3.5 live births per woman.

However, an increase in women choosing to focus on careers and having families later mean the average age of mothers has risen to 32, while the proportion of mothers under 30 has dropped to one third from 43% in 2002.

The natural increase is the figure of all births minus deaths and it was 42,488 in 2012. This figure has increased from 2011 despite birth rates falling.

The CSO report also found that the rate of twins being born in Ireland has increased over the last 20 years, likely indicating improvements in diet and healthcare and possibly an increase in the use of fertility treatments. The twinning rate is the number of live sets of twins born per 1,000 live births. It now stands at 17.3 up from 11.7 in 1992. There were also 33 sets of triplets born in Ireland in 2012.

Other findings include the fact that 35% of all children are now born outside of marriage or civil partnership, with the highest proportion being born in Limerick City where the rate of births outside of marriage is at 56%. County Galway had the lowest rate at 22%.

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