Childbirth is booming in Ireland – the country now has the highest percentage of children in the expanded European Union.
A new report says that more than 1.1 million children are now living in Ireland, one in four of the population.
The so-called baby boom has continued despite the country’s economic woes and the collapse of the Celtic Tiger.
The Irish Independent reports that the child population continued to rise in the decade to 2011, with a 13.4 per cent surge recorded.
The State of the Nation’s Children Report: Ireland 2012’ report reveals that Ireland has the highest percentage of children, at 25 per cent of the total population, in the expanded EU.
Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald has claimed these statistics offer ‘unprecedented potential’ for Ireland’s economic future.
But her Government has warned that the stark rise in the under-17 population poses challenges in planning with schools set to need 3,000 new teachers over the next three years.
Minister Fitzgerald said: “Amongst the many challenges are improving the affordability and accessibility of childcare – particularly as the pre-school population has surged by 18 per cent since 2006.
“The level of public spending on early intervention and services for children needed to be reassessed by Government.
“We have had a legacy of providing direct cash payments, instead of investing in services.”
The Minister added that the Department of Children and Youth Affairs will spend $320 million on early intervention and childcare services, compared to billions on child-benefit payments and allowances.