Facts and Figures about Eire's Population

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    Facts and Figures about Eire's PopulationAuthor(s): D. DempseySource: The Irish Monthly, Vol. 67, No. 794 (Aug., 1939), pp. 529-535Published by: Irish Jesuit ProvinceStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20514574 .Accessed: 16/06/2014 01:35

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  • 529

    Facts and Figures about Eire's Population

    By D. DEMPSEY.

    HE publication of Volume V, Part I, of the 1936 Census of T Eire received lengthy mention in the Press and from

    public speakers. This was mainly due to the remarkable changes which were shown to have occurred during the past ten years in the distribution of population in Fire. Much of this type of comment presupposes on the part of the reader or hearer a certain amount of knowledge of population problems, and when this minimum of general knowledge is lacking, as it often is, then the facts do not register in one's mind, nor are the implications of these facts really grasped. Since the trend of population in Eire and in other countries is an actual and important social problem which should be of interest to each one of us, these notes

    may-as they presuppose no knowledge of the subject at all-be of some help in considering the question.

    1. Generally speaking, the tremendous increase in the popu lation of Europe and America during the past 150 years is

    attributable to a diminished death-rate and to a great decrease in infantile mortality. Since 1800 the population of Germany, for instance, increased from 25,000,000 to 67,000,000 people, France from 27,000,000 to 42,000,000, Italy from 18,000,000 to 43,000,000. Between 1751 and 1931 the population of England and Wales increased from less than 6,500,000 to nearly 40,000,000. On the other hand the birth-rate in all countries of the western world and in the U.S.A. has, for the past fifty years,

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    declined steadily. It appears unlikely that the furtlher pr*gress of medical science will succeed in lowering the present death-rate

    to any considerable extent, so this check on the decline of population will steadily lose its effect, and the result of the falling birth-rate will become more and more pronounced. Imlmigrationi and emigration, of course, affect the population of certain countries to a varying degree, buit in general the trend of popu lation is mainly determined by birth aind death rates.

    The birth-rate is the total ntumber of births per 1,000 of the population. The fertility rate, a clearer indication of the trend of population, is the number of births per 1,000 women between 15 and 50 years of age. Fromii the fertility rate is caletlated the net reproduction rate wllich is the number of wormen by

    whom the average woman of reproductive age in a cormmntnity will be replaced a generation hence, assumling that the existing fertility and mortality rates are continuied into the futuLre. In

    many countries, for instance, Engcland, Scotland, Germany, France, Sweden, the U.S.A., Atstralia, the net reproduction rate has fallen below the replacement rate, that is the present number of women of child-bearing age will not be replaced by an equal number in the next generation.

    2. Eire has differed from most other countries in se far as ouir population has been steadily decreasing for the past eighty years or so. Since 1841 the total popuilation has decreased by 3,560,000.

    We have had for many years past in Eire an abnormnally low marriage rate but a high fertility rate. The 1936 Cenisus shows that the marriage rate remains as low as in former years, but the fertility rate has declined considerably. While the birth-rate in Eire, as elsewhere, has steadily declined since the second half

    of the 19th century, the high fertility rate kept the proportion of children in the population at a fair average as compared with

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    other countries. The fall in the fertility rate changes this position.

    8. So much for the general trend. The 1936 Census for Eire brings proof that the main change in the ten years 1926-36 is in the distribuition of our population in the different age-groups.

    Between 1926 and 1986.

    The total population decreased by 3,572. The number in the age-group 0-14 years decreasedl by

    47,485. The number in the age-group 0-20 vears decreased by

    69,049. The number in the age-group 65 vears and over decreased

    by 15,000. In rural areas the total population decreased by 5.7 per cent.

    (114,371 persons). In rural areas the total number of children under 15 years

    decreased by 78,398 or 13.2 per cent.

    For the past 50 years we have had in Eire an ageing population, that is a poptulation in which an increasing proportion comne

    within the older age-groups and a decreasing proportion in the groups of children and young people, but the decline in the number of children between 1926 and 1936 was much sharper than in previous Census periods.

    4. Referring back to the low marriage rate mentioned in 2. above, this is all the more remarkable as in Lire in 1936 there were only 9,52 females to every 1,000 males-the lowest ratio in

    Europe and one of the lowest in the world. One woman in every four in Eire remains unmarried. In comparison with other countries the average age of women at marriage is high

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    and the proportion of married womnen under 45 years of age is abnormally low. Sixty-four per cent. of women in Eire betweern 25 and 29 years are unmarried, as compared with Germanv (42.8 per cent.), England and Wales (40.6 per cent.), Italy (38.5 per cent.), France (24.8 per cent.), U.S.A. (21.7 per cent.). It is obvious that in a country such as ours where late marriages are

    the rule, the proportion of married women in the older and less fertile age-groups will be high, and in the younger and more fertile age groups will be low.

    Men marry here at an even later age than womnen, and since 1926 the proportion of the population uinmarried, both men and

    women, has increased. This increase is also notable in so far as

    it occurred during a period of growing urbanisation, as the marriage rate is higher and the age at nmarriage lower among an urban than among a rural l)oplilation. The percentage of unmarried men is greatest in rural areas and lowest in Dublin, buit even in ouir cities the percentage of unmarried men is excep tionally high as compared with foreign cities.

    'ro explain the low marriage rate and late age at miarriage a characteristic feature of this country for miany years past various reasons are advanced. There is, for instance, the fact that many men in rural areas have relatives depending on theni and are not in a position to marry. (Riiral dwellers are nearly two-thirds of the total population of Fire). Emigration is partly responsible for the postponenment of marriage, especially in rural areas, since intending enigrants rarely marry. Frorn 1926 to) 1936 the net total of emigration was 167,000 persons, of whom 56.5 per cent. were women. In the later age-groups, however, (.35-44 years) when emigration is practically over, the proportion of unmarried men and women is still very high. Absence (of security in employment and economic difficulties are no doubt largely responsible for the postponement or avoidance of

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    marriage. Added to this is the fact that the standard of living in Eire has improved very greatly since the 19th century, and there is a reluctance to fall below one's habitual standard in undertaking the charges of a family.

    5. In rural areas the Census shows that there were in 1986 78,898 less children under 15 years of age than in 1926. This fact is perhaps the most important in the entire voluime. The decrease in the number of children in rural areas was not due to any increase in infant or juvenile mortality-ini fact, the infantile mortality rate fell during this period-it was due to a

    decline in the number of births in rural areas. The rural popu lation as a whole, children and adults, decreased by 114,371

    during the period 1926-36, and the urban population increased by 110,799. The increase in the urban population brought about an increase in the actual number of births in town areas, but the birth-rate per 1,000 of the population in town areas decreased, though not so much as in rural areas.

    Since 1926 the proportion of married wonmen in the population of tire has changed very little, and though the average age of women at marriage has increased, it has not done so to any very great extent. The decline in the number of births is due, there fore, to a decline in the fertility rate. The percentage of illegitimate births in Eire (3.4 per cent. of total births 1931-35) is too low to have much effect on the general rate.

    6. Emigration, of course, takes its toll of our population each year, mainly from the rural areas and Connacht in particular.

    When we consider that the majority of male emigrants are between 20 and 80 years of age, female emigrants between 15 and 20 years, and that 56.5 per cent. of these 167,000 emigrants (1926-86) were women, we can readily see what effect this has on the marriage rate and birth-rate. To instance but one result of the fall in the child population of rural Ireland, the growing

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    unemployment among country teachers is, in view of our popU lation's trend, not likely to be lessened (even now we are told that " the cradles of Lire are being searched for school-going babies "), and at the other end of the scale Nve find a heavy burden of social services for old people. Three out of every four persons over 70 years in Eire receive the old-age pension, and the number of elderly and old people here is comparatively high, duie not only to the good health which-as compared with other countries they enjoy, but also to the decline in and consequent ageing of our population for many years past. The further fall in our birth-rate and resultant decrease in the number of children ini Eire will tend to increase unemployment, since a large proportion of non-producing consumers is needed to maintain the demand for the products of agriculture and industry.

    7. The statistics for Lire show that we are following the general tendency of poptulation in Europe-falling birth-rate, falling fertility rate-and we find that this problem of population is regarded both by heads of States and by sociologists as among the most serious of our day. One of the foremost modern writers on population wrote in 1928: "With a fertilitv and a mortality as they prevail at present . . . the population of the larger countries, France, and especially England and Germany, is doomed to die out." It is realised that the problem has two aspects, the moral and the material, from which it must be studied and towards which any solutions nmust be directed. German writers on population hold that a falling birth-rate is chiefly due not to economic but to spiritual factors which lead to the decay of faith and the denial of life, and maintain that the recent slight rise in the birth-rate of their country is the restult of improvement in morale, renewed optimism, belief in Germany's future, etc., plus the material aid given by the State to parents.

    Be this as it may, the chief causes of a falling birth-rate are

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    much the same in every country. According to a recent lecturer they are the desire for comfort, an ever-growing sense of anxiety, increased cost of education, and an aversion to undertaking responsibilities that could be avoided. In countries where the gravity of the situation is fully realised, for instance, in Germany and Italy by the head of the State, in France and Belgium by social welfare organisations, the dual approach is made, first to the psychological aspect and then to the economic side of the problem. Full use is made of every means of propaganda by which public opinion may be influenced in favour of larger families, and social legislation is introduced to assist parents. We hear a certain spatter of talk about " Family Allowances " which have long been operative in France and Belgium (though the amounts received by heads of families are, in the main, patheti cally inadequate), and which have more recently been introduced into Germany and Italy, but there are innumerable other ways in which the State can, and in some countries does, encourage its citizens to marry and bring up families in decent living con

    ditions. It might be well if we did know more of what is being done abroad in such matters. No amount of emphasis on the consequences of a declining population and on the gravity of the " flight from the land " will stop that decline and that flight unless the emphasis is carried over to the economic side also and it is made materially possible for those concerned to remain at home, to marry, and to provide for their children. On the negative side many countries have, of course, taken such obvious measures as laws forbidding abortion, forbidding the spread of contraceptive literature, contraceptives, etc., but unless the

    mentality of a people accords with it, no such legislation can be really effective.

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    Article Contentsp. 529p. 530p. 531p. 532p. 533p. 534p. 535

    Issue Table of ContentsThe Irish Monthly, Vol. 67, No. 794 (Aug., 1939), pp. 519-592Extracts of Social Wisdom [pp. 519-523]Hats off to Soil-Makers! [pp. 524-528]Facts and Figures about Eire's Population [pp. 529-535]Frivolous EncountersGall for George Moore [pp. 536-541]

    The Adventure of Sunshine House [pp. 542-555]Political Catholicism [pp. 556-561]The Story of Forget-Me-Not and Lily of the Valley [pp. 562-570]Sitting at the PlayReview: Cuckoo and Harlequin [pp. 571-576]

    The World of LettersReview: Mary of the Gael [pp. 577-586]

    Book ReviewsReview: untitled [pp. 587-588]Review: untitled [pp. 588-589]Review: untitled [pp. 589-590]Review: untitled [pp. 590-592]