Social and Demographic Change

Official statistics from various sources over the last two decades reveal the emergence of major changes in society, such as increased globalisation, more participation by women in the labour force, decline in the popularity of marriage, a rise in one-parent families, greater use of the educational system and an increase in the number of foreign nationals.

By the end of the twentieth century, births to unmarried mothers stood at 30% of the total- rising from 1,600 in 1921 to over 15,000 in 1998 and rose further to almost 32% of births (or 19,501) in 2005. Between 1975 and 1995 the probability of female marriage declined by one third, from 90% to 60%, while between 1971 and 2006 the proportion of married women in the workforce rose from 8% to 53%. In relation to overall fertility, there were 75,554 children born in Ireland in 2009, which was the highest number of births recorded since 1891. The number of births in 2009 marked the fourth consecutive year of annual increases. The average number of children per woman was 2.10 in 2009, the same rate as in 2008 and Ireland continued to have the highest fertility rate of the 27 EU member states at 2.10 children per woman. In 2009, there were 25,406 babies born to women aged 30 to 34, the highest number of all age groups. The number of divorced people in Ireland increased by 150.3 per cent from 2002 to 2011, up from 35,059 to 87,770.

Ireland had the highest percentage increase in population in the EU between 2001 and 2011. The rate of natural increase of the population was 10.4 per 1,000 in 2010 compared with an EU average of only 1.0. The country also became increasingly urbanised; the census of 2011 revealed that the urban population had increased by 10.6 per cent while the rural population only grew by 4.6 per cent; by that time the urban population comprised 62 per cent of the total population and Dublin city and suburbs had a 39 per cent share of the total urban population. In 2011, Ireland had the highest proportion of young people (0-14) in the EU, and the second lowest proportion of older people (65 and over); these combined to give Ireland an age dependency ratio that was similar to the EU average. 


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