Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland teenagers giving birth hits record low

Population expected to be over 2m by mid-2040

By Mark Bain

The number of teenagers giving birth in Northern Ireland hit a record low in 2017, new figures have revealed.

A report by the NI Statistic and Research Agency (NISRA) shows that just 692 of the 23,075 births in Northern Ireland last year were to mothers under the age of 20.

The figure is less than half the number recorded a decade previously (1,405) and 65% fewer than 30 years ago (2,008).

The report is an overview of Northern Ireland's demographics, focusing on births, deaths and marriages.

It shows the average age of first-time mums has continued to increase, up from 25 in 1987 to 28.7 years in 2017. The average age of all mums has risen from 27.6 years to 30.8 years over the last three decades while the number of children a woman has had reduced from 2.39 to 1.87 between 1987 and 2017.

Births, deaths, marriages, divorces, adoptions and civil partnerships in Northern Ireland in 2017.

Dr Dirk Schubotz is chairman of Common Youth (formerly Brook NI) sexual health service for young people and a senior lecturer in Social Policy at Queen's University. He said the statistics are not surprising.

"This is in line with data that we see in other European countries," he said.

"The availability of contraception has improved and there has been progress in relationship and sexuality education and more young people actually plan when they have children and wait until they have found employment. Childcare costs are also a factor."

The statistics also show life expectancy has been increasing for both men and women, with 35% of the 16,036 people who died aged under 75, compared to 50% in 1987. Cancer continued to be the leading cause of death in 2017, accounting for 28% of the total.

When it comes to marriage, the average age of first-time brides and grooms is now 30 and 32 years respectively, rising from 24 years for brides and 26 years for grooms in 1987.

A total of 8,300 marriages and 92 civil partnerships were registered in 2017, with 2,089 couples divorcing.

The estimated population of Northern Ireland rose by 8,700 people to reach 1.871 million by the end of June 2017. It is expected to reach 2m people by mid-2040, with the number of people aged 65 and over projected to overtake children by mid-2028.

Dr Paula Devine, co-director of ARK, a joint social sciences initiative between Queen's University Belfast and Ulster University, said the statistics paint a picture of a future society that should motivate planning to ensure the needs of the country are met in the decades ahead. "The population is rising and getting older," she said. "Efforts have to be made to ensure finance is in the right place at the right time to deal with changes in society."

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