Irish birth rate still high but first-time mothers are among oldest in EU

Thursday 14th March 2019 - Anne-Marie Walsh , Irish Independent View Article Here

Ireland has the third highest fertility rate in the EU, although the average woman is older than 30 when she has her first child.

There is also a high proportion of women who start their family in their 40s compared with other nations.

New official figures show the people of this country still live up to the age-old stereotype of being fertile with big families.

Behind Finland, Ireland has the second highest share of mothers with four children or more across the EU, at 9pc.

There are 1.77 births per woman in Ireland, according to the Eurostat figures.

This puts us third in the fertility stakes, behind Sweden, at 1.78 births per woman, and France, in first place, at 1.9.

Residents of Malta have the lowest rate at 1.26 births for every female, according to the figures based on 2017 data.

But despite our high fertility ranking, we are not even replacing ourselves.

Some 2.1 births per woman is the standard measurement needed for the population to sustain itself at the same level.

This is already posing big problems for the Government.

The number of workers who will be able to pay for social welfare benefits including the State pension is forecast to drop dramatically.

There were 4.9 people of working age to every pensioner in 2015, but Government estimates expect this to fall to just 2.3 workers for every pensioner by 2055.

The average age at which women are having children has climbed across Europe, from 28.7 in 2013 to 29.1 in 2017. In Ireland, it stood at 30.3 two years ago.

First-time mothers are youngest in Bulgaria and Romania at 26, and oldest in Italy, Spain, Luxembourg, Greece and Ireland, at between 30 and 31.

Karen O'Reilly, of recruitment agency Employmum, said women are waiting to have children when they are older because they believe they can have it all.

"They reach their mid-30s, and for many women they realise that they may have left it too late."

She said a lack of flexible work options and high childcare costs mean many feel they have to sacrifice their career to have children.

Flexible options include part-time and remote work, job sharing, term-time working and compressing more work into fewer days in order to get time off, she said.

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