CW Long posting (original content)

Ireland is experiencing a demographic catastrophe

Due mainly to Covid-19, Ireland saw a significant drop in the number of births in the second quarter of this year compared with the same period last year. At 14.6pc, it was the second biggest fall in Europe, and would have been even worse were it not for the number of non-Irish nationals having babies here. Marriages also went significantly down. We are experiencing a demographic catastrophe.

Vital statistics for the second quarter of 2021 released by the CSO last week show that 11,551 babies were born from April to June this year, whereas in the same period in 2020 there were 13,527 births. That is a drop of 1,976, the equivalent of -14.6 pc. An enormous reduction.

Those born from April to June 2021 were conceived in the second half of 2020, when Ireland was experiencing the second wave of the pandemic.

If we compare births for the first quarter (January-March) of this year with the first quarter of last year, before the pandemic got a grip on the country, there was a fall of 3.3pc, not too out of line with trend for the last few years.

This proves that conceptions dropped significantly only in the second half of last year when, after an initial period of uncertainty, people began to understand the long-term impact of Covid-19 and they planned their future life accordingly.

If we combine quarters 1 and 2, the drop of births was 8.8pc, compared to the first semester of 2020.

A similar drop has happened in other countries but not everywhere. With the exception of Moldova, Ireland has had the highest drop in Europe in 2021 so far.

Compared to the same period of the previous year, births went down in Portugal (-8.5pc)., Poland (-7.6pc), Italy (-4.4pc), England and Wales (-3.9pc). And also outside of Europe: Japan (-4.9pc), United States (-1.9pc).

But there was an increase of births in some North European countries: Finland (6.9), Norway (5.7), Netherlands (5.7), Denmark (3.1). Sweden, which had no lockdowns, also saw a 0.7pc increase.

It is worth noting that in April-June last year, 77.5pc of babies were born to women with an Irish nationality. Non-Irish nationals represent 12.9pc of the total population, but accounted for 22.5pc of births. They are having more children per head than the Irish.

Not surprisingly, the number of marriages plunged as well, but in order to understand the scale of reduction it is better to compare 2021 not with the previous year but with 2019, as in some periods of 2020 weddings were heavily restricted and so most of them were postponed.

(For a more detailed analysis of marriages in 2020 see here:

2,558 weddings took place in the second quarter of 2021 in Ireland. About half (50.8pc) compared to 2019 when, in the same period, 5,204 couples tied to knot. In the second quarter of 2020, there were only 303 marriages, when only six people could attend.

There were 4,823 marriages in the first half of 2021, 42.5pc fewer than 2019 when 8,389 couples married. Instead, compared to the first half of 2020, when most weddings were cancelled, this year saw a significant increase of 68.6pc.

A drop in marriages during the pandemic is a world-wide trend, with no exceptions, and it was already evident from the 2020 data but the impact of Covid-19 on births appears only in 2021, after 9 months. The change in birth rate in different countries is complex to explain but it is associated to how much and when the virus hit them. Only few, mostly Scandinavian countries, experienced a small baby-boom.

The Irish birth rate in quarter 2 of 2021 was the lowest ever since it has been recorded: 9.2 per thousand population. The total fertility rate (average number of children a woman would have in her life) for the first half of 2021 was also the lowest recorded ever: 1.4. This is way below the replacement rate.

All those figures might slightly improve in the years to come, when Covid-19 will fade away, but the current situation is dramatic. Ireland is experiencing a demographic catastrophe and there seems to be little awareness in the public opinion.

Our low fertility rate should be a cause of national debate, but mysteriously is not, despite its dire, long-term consequences.

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