Birth rise may stem from boom optimism


THE RECORD number of babies born last year has been attributed to the optimism felt during the economic boom. Prof Tony Fahey, head of UCD’s school of applied social science, said it appeared the economic boom had been good for Ireland’s birth rate. “But it will be interesting to see what happens in the next 12 months.”

However, this also coincided with a significant rise in the price of housing and childcare and an increased availability of jobs, which might have been expected to reduce the birth rate, Prof Fahey said.

He said the increased birth rate during the boom seemed to be linked with a general sense of optimism over what the future held. Immediate concerns such as childcare costs did not seem to matter so much.

The continued rise in the birth rate was welcomed by Minister for Social and Family Affairs Mary Hanafin, who said a younger workforce was needed to supplement future pension payments. “Obviously one likes to see a population regenerating itself but [it is] also very useful . . . for the future payment of pensions, that we will have young workers,” Ms Hanafin said on RTÉ’s News at One yesterday.

“At the moment, we have six workers for every person on pension but in 40 years’ time, that’s going to be down to two workers for every person on pension so it’s certainly very encouraging to see the birth rate rising,” she said

Ms Hanafin said she was “very hopeful” for the country’s future and the opportunities which would be available to a new generation of workers.  “Obviously I would hope that not all those people will be dependent on social welfare but those who do need it. we’ll be there to look after them,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Crisis Pregnancy Agency drew attention to the decrease in the number of births to teenagers last year.

The number of births to women under 20 fell slightly from 2,464 in 2007 to 2,426 in 2008.

Crisis Pregnancy Agency director Caroline Spillane said there had been a 21 per cent decrease in the number of births to teenagers since the agency was set up in 2001.

The total number of births across all age groups rose by 30 per cent in the same period.

“Research has found that children and teenagers who have an open and communicative relationship with their parents in talking about relationships and sex are less likely to engage in risk-taking behaviour and more likely to use contraception at first sex,” Ms Spillane said.

Ava and Jack are top baby names

Jack has been the most popular name for six of the last 10 years and has not left the top three during that time. Some 9,697 Jacks have been registered since 1998, according to the CSO.

In the early years, Jack Charlton was pointed to as a reason for the name’s popularity. Then Leonardo Di Caprio’s character Jack from the film Titanicwas cited.

Now, it seems, it is just a popular name in its own right.

Ava was the sixth most popular girl’s name in 2007, so her rise to the top spot has been swift. There were 685 girls named Ava last year, 22 more than the number for Katie, the second most popular girls’ name. They were followed by Sarah, Emma and Emily.

The top five boys’ names last year, Jack, Seán, Conor, Daniel and James, also made up the top five in 2007, in the same order.

There has been more variation in the girls’ top five, with Emily and Ava entering the top five for the first time.

Emma and Sarah have been in the top five since 1998 but Katie has only been in the top five since 2003.

The figures show five first-time entries to the top 100 for boys. They are Jakub, Kacper, Filip, Billy and Patryk. Hugh returned to the top 100 after a two-year absence and Odhran and Lorcan returned after a three-year absence.

There were four first-time entries to the top 100 for girls: Maja, Natalia, Zuzanna and Meabh. Michelle returned to the top 100 after a two-year absence.

The figures show that girls are given a wider variety of names than boys, with 43.1 per cent of girls given a name not in the top 100, compared with 34.9 per cent of boys.

There are some similarities between this list and the names chosen by parents who announced their babies’ births in the columns of The Irish Timeslast year. James, Jack and Daniel were the most popular boys’ names, with Grace, Anna and Emily the most popular girls’ names.


1 Ava

2 Katie

3 Sarah

4 Emma

5. Emily

6. Sophie

7. Grace

8 Aoife

9 Chloe

10 Kate


1 Jack

2 Seán

3 Conor

4 Daniel

5 James

6 Ryan

7 Adam

8 Dylan

9 Luke

10 Alex