One in five women still childless in their 40s
Almost one in five Irish women has not had children by the time they reach the end of their child-bearing years, a new study shows.
The lack of affordable childcare in Ireland has been cited as one of the reasons women here have the third highest rate of childlessness in the developed world.
According to the study by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), 18.4pc of Irish women over 45 don't have children. This is the childbearing age as defined by the OECD.
Italy tops the table with 24pc; Austria is second with 21.1pc, and England and Wales comes in third at 20.5pc. The top five is completed by the Netherlands, which falls just behind Ireland at 18.3pc. The figures are based on an OECD survey carried out between 2005 and 2010. The 18.4pc Irish figure is based upon women who are now aged at least 49.
Commenting on the figures, the National Women's Council of Ireland (NWCI) said that although they have yet to see the study, they believe that it is a "multifaceted and complex issue".
Alice Higgins, policy officer with the organisation, outlined a number of trends and issues which are prevalent in Ireland.
"The lack of affordable childcare facilities has been identified as a major concern in the UK – and childcare is certainly an issue in Ireland also – with recent OECD figures highlighting that we have some of the highest costs associated with access to childcare," she explained. "Childcare costs have been cited as a significant reason for the relatively low figures of women with children in the workforce as compared with women without children."
Ms Higgins also highlights the "gender pay gap" and the absence of paid paternity leave for fathers as "factors contributing to pressure on women seeking to balance employment and care".
"These issues may potentially also impact on the circumstances and decision-making faced by women when they are considering having children," she added.
The issue of economic insecurity was also indicated by the NWCI as "a concern for many women".
"Women are more likely to be in low-paid or precarious work and, although it would need more research, it may be the case that in some situations women may feel concerned about short-term contracts being renewed after a period of absence.
"While many women in Ireland are now highly educated, it is still the case that many sectors and professions fail to offer career progression paths which recognise or accommodate caring roles."
According to figures released by the Economic and Social Research Institute late last year, the average age of Irish women giving birth in 2012 was almost 32.
The OECD study determined that the average age of women when they gave birth to their first child had increased between 1995 and 2009, from 27.3 years to 28.4.