The patter of tiny feet is apparently growing louder in Iceland — and it’s all down to the banking meltdown. There’s been a 3.5 per cent increase in the birth rate there this year, giving the country its highest number of deliveries for at least half a century.

Helga Gottfreosdottir, professor of midwifery at the University of Iceland, says the country was already seeing an increase in births in 2008, before the banking crash. The figure was up from 2.09 births per woman to 2.14 (that’s compared with 1.95 in Britain, and 2.02 in France). But, given that Iceland is a tiny country that boasts just 320,000 people, the rise only amounted to a hard figure of 275 actual births. She’s sceptical about whether Iceland will turn out, in the long term, to be bucking the international trend. But she does wonder whether one key to the rise could be Iceland’s generous parental leave. “Here, parents get nine months of leave when they have a baby,” she explains. “Three months is for the mother, three months is for the father, and three months can be taken by either the mother or the father.” Better yet, if you’re an out-of-work Icelander who’s just had a baby, the state will pay you a salary for up to six months of childcare. Who says life isn’t all down to economics? — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009

Keywords: Icelandbaby boom

More In: Comment | Opinion