Good news and bad news in the matched and hatched statistics from Ireland. Marriage and birth rates soared during the economic boom years of 1995 to 2006 — but so did extra-marital births and cohabitation. And while there are more three-child families in Ireland than practically anywhere else in Europe, families on average are getting smaller. There was a 77 per cent rise in one-child households, and a 59 per cent drop in four-child households, between 1981 and 2006.
Professor Tony Fahey of University College Dublin said the increase in births in recent years suggested the state of the economy and the labour market may have a bigger impact on childbearing than the level of government support. Overall, births were up 46 per cent.
The surge in marriages over the past decade has been partly driven by the growth in numbers of people in the 20- to 40-year age bracket, and marriages over the age of 30 are on the rise. However, compared to the 40 per cent rise in marriages from 1995 to 2006, there was a four-fold rise in cohabitation. There has also been a five-fold increase in marriage breakdown since 1986 — from 40,000 to 200,000 in 2006.
The percentage of births outside marriage stood at 33.2 per cent in 2006 and the average age of mothers giving birth outside marriage has risen from 22.2 years in 1980 to 27.1 in 2006. The number of lone parent families rose by 30,000 between 2002 and 2006; today, more than one in five families with children under 15 years are headed by a lone parent. These, and two-parent families with more than four children are most at risk of poverty, the statistics show. ~ Irish Times, Nov 29