Ireland’s baby boom is well and truly over with the latest figures showing the birth rate has fallen by 20 per cent in the last decade.
There were 57,540 babies born in the State in 2022, a drop of 1.5 per cent on 2021 figures. A decade ago, in 2012, 71,674 children were born from a smaller population base with almost 500,000 less people living in the State at the time. The Celtic Tiger baby boom peaked in 2009 when 75,554 children were born that year.
The annual birth rate has fallen in the last decade from 15.7 per 1,000 in 2012 to 11.3 per 1,000 last year, meaning that just more than 11 babies were born in 2022 per 1,000 of the population.
The fertility rate in this century peaked during the Celtic Tiger at just more than 2.0 babies per woman and has been steadily declining since. In 2022, it was 1.7 which is well below the replacement level of 2.1 babies per woman.
The replacement level is the rate at which the population naturally replaces itself unless bolstered by inward migration.
This will have consequences down the line for school enrolments and for the tax base to fund the State’s increasingly elderly population.
The average age of first-time mothers in 2022 was 31.5 years, down 0.1 years from 2021. The average age of mothers for all births registered in 2022 was 33.2 years, compared to 33.3 in 2021 and 31.9 years, a decade earlier, in 2012.
There was a significant rise in the death rate. Deaths were up by 19 per cent from 28,848 in 2021 to 35,477 last year. Covid-19 was held responsible for 1,848 deaths of whom 1,374 were aged 75 and older.
An additional 697 people died with Covid-19, though not because of it.
Rising death rates have been observed in many Western countries since the end of the pandemic. The phenomenon has been put down to weaker immunity as a result of vulnerable people being locked up for so long as well as all the medical appointments missed during the pandemic. Doctors have dismissed suggestions it was down to the Covid-19 vaccine.
The natural increase (births minus deaths) in 2022 was 22,063, which was 13 per cent lower than the natural increase of 25,388 in 2021. The natural increase, births less deaths, was nearly twice that in 2012 when it was 44,900.
There were 23,173 marriages registered in 2022 (up from 17,217 in 2021), of which 618 were same-sex marriages. This was expected as so many weddings were postponed as a result of Covid-19.
The marriage rate in 2022 was 4.5 marriages per 1,000 of population, 1.1 more than the rate in 2021.