Irish women have the highest fertility rate in the EU, but the birthrate here still remains below the level needed to replace the population, the Irish Times reports.
Latest figures published today reveal there were 73,996 children born in Ireland in 2008.
This was up 2,607 or 3.7 per cent from 2007, and up 20,027 or 37.1 per cent since 1998, according to the Central Statistics Office Vital Statistics report.
The average number of children per woman increased from 2.05 in 2007 to 2.07 in 2008 – just below the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman.
This is the fertility rate that must be maintained to replace the population in the absence of migration.
According to the CSO, the number of babies born in 2008 was the highest since 1980 when there were 74,064 births, the only year in the 20th century to have a higher birth rate.
Before that, the highest number of births was in 1892, when there were 74,029 births in Ireland (excluding Northern Ireland).
It is the third consecutive annual increase in the number of births. The birth rate was 16.7 per 1,000 of the population compared with 16.5 in 2007 and 14.6 in 1998.
The CSO noted an “important shift” in the age structure of fertility after 1993.
Prior to that date, the highest fertility rate was for women aged 25 to 29. After that year, it shifted to the 30-34 age group.
Nearly 22 per cent of births in 2008 were to mothers of non-Irish nationality. The number of births outside marriage was 24,732 or 33.4 per cent.