Iceland goes from bust to baby boom

 

THEY HAVE been called the “Kreppa babies”, after the Icelandic word for “crisis”. Just over nine months after Iceland’s banking sector collapsed, the country is experiencing a baby boom.

Deliveries are up about 3.5 per cent so far this year, putting the island on course to record its most annual births in at least half a century. Some commentators have seized on the spike as evidence Icelanders are finding comfort in relationships and family life amid the rubble of their shattered economy.

“I think many, many of us have sought solace in love and sex,” wrote Alda Sigmundsdóttir on her popular blog, the Iceland Weather Report.

Another theory suggests rising unemployment, which has tripled to 9 per cent since the crisis, has left more time to procreate.

But demographic experts are sceptical of the “Kreppa boom”. Ólöf Garoarsdóttir of the University of Iceland said the increase was in line with similar rises in Iceland in recent years as the country bucked the trend towards lower birth rates elsewhere in Europe.

“I’m very reluctant to believe there are any Kreppa babies,” she said, adding that, in a country of just 320,000 people, the numbers involved were too small to draw clear conclusions. There were 2,389 births in the first half of this year, compared with 2,313 in the same period last year.

Ms Garoarsdóttir said history suggested Iceland’s baby boom would start to deflate as people adapted to the harsh economic outlook, recalling how birth rates fell in the US and Europe during the Great Depression.

Other elements of family life are proving less resilient, however. Marriages are sharply down as people skip the expense of tying the knot, with some churches reporting declines of up to 50 per cent.

The baby boom has been hailed as a sign of optimism even as economists warn that the country could face a wave of emigration as debts mount. – (Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009)