Surge in births places Ireland at top of EU


A SURGE in births in recent years has resulted in Ireland having the highest proportion of young children in its population across the European Union.

A report by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) on children and young people shows that Ireland had the highest proportion of children aged nine years or younger.

In the 0-4 category, the proportion of children in the overall population in Ireland during 2008 (7.4 per cent) was well above the EU average (5.2 per cent). Only France came close to matching Ireland’s figures (6.3 per cent).

Ireland also had the highest proportion of children aged five to nine years (6.9 per cent), and the second highest proportion of children aged 10-14 years (6 per cent).

A detailed breakdown shows the highest proportion of young people were based in the “mid-east” or counties in the commuter-belt surrounding Dublin.

The figures for teenagers are less impressive. In EU terms, Ireland had the eleventh highest proportion aged 15-19 years (6.5 per cent)

Despite the rise in the proportion of young children, and a rise in the general population over the past 20 years, the proportion of young people in the Irish population has actually fallen since the 1980s.

The report also shows that in 2006 some 84 per cent of children aged between three and the compulsory school age attended formal childcare in the EU compared with 93 per cent in Ireland. On average children in Ireland in this age group attended childcare for 22 hours per week compared with 27 hours across the EU.

Overall, the number of young people aged 19 years or under has fallen from 1.36 million in 1986 (38 per cent of the population) to less than 1.2 million in 2008 (27 per cent).

Immigration has also changed the ethnic profile of the population in recent years. Young people with Irish ethnicity accounted for 85 per cent of the population aged 0-4 years and 92 per cent of the 15-19 years age group in 2006. In contrast people with black ethnicity accounted for 3 per cent of young people aged 0-4 years but only 0.7 per cent of persons aged 15-19 years.

Changing youth demographics have also had an impact on the education system. The number of students at primary level increased by 7.5 per cent between 1998/1999 and 2007/2008, but reduced by a similar proportion at second level over the same period.

Figures also show Ireland had a student-teacher ratio of 19.4 at primary education level in 2005/2006. This was the joint second highest pupil teacher ratio in the EU.

The CSO report also shows significant variations in academic performance between subjects. In 2008, the percentage of Leaving Cert candidates in higher level maths achieving an A grade was 14 per cent compared with 13 per cent of higher level candidates in Irish and 10 per cent of candidates taking higher-level English.

In contrast, almost one-quarter of candidates taking higher level chemistry (23 per cent) were awarded an A grade.