Oh baby, baby…

As far back as records go, Irish women have had more children than their sisters across Europe and today is no different, with Ireland leading the population growth league by a considerable distance.baby

While the number of inhabitants within Europe has only risen five per cent in the last 16 years, the increase in Ireland has been five times bigger.

Now some will argue immigration is also a contributing factor to our population growth but as the Irish know, migration goes both ways, and statistically the birth and fertility rates in Ireland are Europe’s highest, sitting at 2.02 children per woman with the average age of women giving birth being between 27 and 29 years old and a third of all births being to single mothers; a statistic that has risen 30% in ten years.

With a density of 65 people per square kilometre and a growth rate of 0.39% our birth rate sits in and around 16.1 per 1,000 population while our death rate comes in at 6.34 per 1,000 population; two statistics that don’t meet each other evenly and when we consider that infant mortality is 3.85 per 1,000 population we have a firm growth rate that shows no sign of letting up. But as the last census showed, the age structure of Ireland shows the bulk of our population (67.3%) are between 15-64 years old with the ages of 0-14 coming in at 21.1% and over 65s making up the 11.6% difference.

So how did Ireland become the portal from which the lions share of life springs? Is TV that bad? Are we that attracted to each other? Or is it just what we do?

An argument can be made for the church and state’s role in our fertility rates. Without the forced rejection of birth control, which was illegal from 1935 to 1980 and stemmed from the union of church and state, Ireland may not have become such a baby-crazy place and as startling as the current facts may be, they are considered respectable in Irish terms, given that the crude Irish birth rate in 1947 peaked at 22.3% and did not drop below the 20% mark until 1983 – three years after the legalisation of birth control.

What’s strange is that even today with a clear understanding and essential use for birth control in Ireland, birth and fertility rates continue to rise faster than any other European country. This could be down to any number of factors. The cost of birth control, the increased sexualising of our culture through unlimited influences, alcohol or if you’re a mystical person perhaps you believe Áine – The Goddess of Love and Fertility has been working flat out for centuries.

In truth, our birth rates have always been high and but for the Great Famine our population would sit in and around the 16 million mark; four times our current population.

By Joe McKenna