The political and economic implications of birthrates are a sensitive issue because we’ve become so used to treating babies as a personal choice.
o Irish women choose not to give birth? Good for them, you say. More time to watch movies, make money, and travel the world—to name just three alternatives that won’t leave you burping all night.
Low birth rates are not always a sign of economic infertility. When women are better educated and have more satisfying careers, we tend to have fewer babies. Having no children—or having fewer than your mother or grandmother—can be a valid life choice.
But with fewer babies, economic growth will falter and too few workers will have to shoulder the burden of an aging population. We’re not having as many babies as we used to, and fewer babies today means fewer workers in the future, which means less money in the Social Security pot.
When we hear that our population is aging faster than elsewhere in Europe, especially at a time when life expectancy is increasing, we should be concerned. This month we learned that birth rates in Ireland have fallen by a fifth, a fall that would have been even greater had it not been for a 4.4 per cent rise in 2021, the first rise in a decade.
Our birth rate has fallen 21.7 percent over the past decade, from 16.3 births per 1,000 people in 2011 to 11.7 births per 1,000 people in 2021.
That’s not progress. This is not our best child-free life. It’s a problem that should prompt our ever-short-term government to act, but it isn’t.
Our rapidly aging population is putting increasing pressure on healthcare, according to a new report from the Department of Health. Currently, there are five taxpayers for every person over 65. In just 20 years, that ratio will drop to three to one.
An ever-declining birthrate is the very definition of a first-world problem. Look at Africa. It has an average of 4.7 births per woman and a population boom that is threatening the continent’s infrastructure. But here in Ireland we are running out of babies and without immigration our population would shrink.
Since graduating, Ireland has gone from crisis to crisis. The question I have is not why the birth rate is falling – but why anyone has children at all. For my generation, having a baby can seem like an impossible dream, a luxury item, as the cost of raising children has risen much faster than incomes.
The cost of childcare in this country is now the most expensive in the developed world, the cost of living crisis means prices have skyrocketed and we may be in for the worst recession on record, depending on which economist you listen to. The average age at which Irish women give birth for the first time rose again last year to almost 32 years.
Well, I have yet to meet a woman who wishes she had had children later. Most of us would actually have preferred to start earlier, but we didn’t. I certainly don’t. and you know why Business. By that I mean a house to live in, a well-paid, secure job, decent childcare.
The Lord’s family disappears as a perfect option. There are nine only children in my daughter’s class – that’s almost half the class where her parents decided and did something unthinkable when I was growing up.
On the day of the last census, our population was over 5.1 million, the highest recorded in an Irish census since 1841. Population change minus natural increase) of 190,333. Immigration is now higher than our birth rate and the government seems to like it that way.
See, babies suck up government money. They need to be fed, clothed, cared for and educated. Immigrants tend to be in the more productive age groups. They are finished workers and taxpayers. They often come here from places with poorer living conditions, so Ireland’s substandard housing, low-paying jobs and little prospect of social or economic advancement represent an improvement for them.
Last year, the French were urged to have more children after the country’s birth rate of 1.83 children per woman fell to its lowest level since World War II.
Hungary is a country that is taking radical measures to address its birth rate problem. Young families are offered a loan that they do not have to repay when they have a third child. Women with four children are exempt from income tax for life.
Our impending and very real demographic shift cannot be reversed by government policies alone, but it would be a start.
If the government wants more babies to be born, listen to potential parents, invest in systems that allow us to have children, and lower our taxes.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/if-government-wants-more-babies-born-it-must-listen-to-the-needs-of-would-be-parents-42212263.html If the government wants more babies to be born, it must respond to the needs of expectant parents