Population: Demographic Situation, Languages and Religion
The 2016 census shows a population of 4,673,700. This is the highest recorded figure since 1851.
Population 1901- 2016
After the foundation of the State, the population of Ireland fell consistently until the 1951 Census. It then showed a significant increase from the early 1960s until the early 1980s. The population decreased slightly between 1986 and 1991, but otherwise continued its upward trend. The population of Ireland increased, by 10.4%, in the period 2006-2016.
The population increase will have a major bearing on where schools are provided, on public transport services and on the provision of front-line healthcare services.
Births and Deaths
Between 1991 and 2016 the average number of deaths fell from 32,000 per year to 30,000 in the same period. The Census 2016 shows that the population has been driven, in recent years, mainly by the birth rate – the highest in the EU. Despite large numbers of people leaving the State, especially in 2006-2008, because of difficult economic times, the surging birth rate means the population has not gone into decline. Some 772,800 babies were born between the end of 2005 and 2016, while 316,400 people died in the same period. The difference of 456,400 is called the ‘natural change’, and Ireland’s rate is far higher than other European countries. There were 67,000 births and 29600 deaths in 2015.
While the natural increase of the population has been steadily positive over the past 50 years, the large swings in net migration have had a strong effect on overall population growth. Net outward migration has varied considerably over the past 50 years. Strong outward migration during the 1950’s led to a population low of 2.8 million being recorded in the 1961 Census. Net migration then remained negative throughout the 1960s. Net inward migration appeared briefly, for the first time, in the 1970s with an annual average of 14,000 between 1971 and 1979. This quickly reverted to net outward migration again throughout the 1980s with a record low point of 44,000 in 1989. Immigration (rising to a peak of 151,000 in 2007, and 69300 in 2015) exceeded emigration over the period from 1996 to 2009. The estimated emigration for 2015 is 80,900 while the estimated immigration is 69,300 (http://www.cso.ie/)
In 2016, net migration varied widely across counties, from a low of -6,731 in Donegal to a high of 7,257 in Dublin City. Indeed Dublin City and Cork City (4,380), along with the administrative area of Dun Laoghaire Rathdown (4,066), were the only counties to experience net inflows of any meaningful amount, while Fingal (875), Laois (285), Longford (178) and Kilkenny (127) showed marginal increases.
The overall migration flows in recent years are shown below:
*rounded to the nearest 100
Source Central Statistics Office
Census 2016 shows there are now more females than males in Ireland with 978 males for every 1,000 females.
Just over 11% of the total population in 2006 was aged 65 years and over. This grew to 11.6% in 2011, and 13.4% in 2016. Although the population is getting older, Ireland still has a young population with 22% under the age of 15 in 2016.
|Percentage Population by Age|
Source Central Statistics Office
Between 2011 and 2016 housing stock increased by 0.95% to 2,022,895 dwellings. The number of vacant dwellings decreased from 15% in 2006, to 14.4% in 2011 and 12.8% in 2016. With rising house prices and a slowdown in new builds, Ireland now faces a growing challenge in regard to homelessness in urban areas.
At the end of the 19th century, only 25% of the population of Ireland lived in urban areas and the other 75% lived in rural areas. At the time of the 1971 Census, just over half (52%) lived in towns with a population of 1,500 or more, and the remaining 48% lived in rural areas. Throughout the 20th century there was consistent population movement away from remote areas of the country, particularly those along the western seaboard.
Many parts of Ireland, particularly along the western seaboard and at far remove from large urban centres such as Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick, and their immediate hinterlands, remain sparsely populated. Between 2011 and 2016, the overall population grew in every county, except Mayo Sligo and Donegal. Over half (55.3%) of the population lives in Leinster, while 26.9% reside in Munster, 11.6% live in Connacht and 6.2% are resident in the part of Ulster that is within the Republic of Ireland.
Urban/rural figures for 2016 are not available yet. The Census 2011 shows that 67% live in urban areas overall, with 33% living in the city and suburban areas of Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford. Ireland continues to have a low density of population with an average of 57 inhabitants per square kilometre. There were significant differences in the number of inhabitants per square kilometre across the four provinces – Leinster is the most densely populated with 76 inhabitants per square kilometre compared with less populated regions such as Munster, which has only 37 inhabitants per square kilometre and Connacht, with 23 inhabitants per square kilometre.
The Republic of Ireland covers a land area of 68,893 square kilometres. Ireland was, traditionally, a mainly agrarian rural society, but this pattern has changed. The population of Leinster has risen steadily since the foundation of the State. Dublin and its surrounding counties have showed the greatest population gains. Census 2016 shows that the population grew in almost every county in Ireland, (except Mayo, Sligo and Donegal). Growth was highest in the cities Dublin, Cork and Galway, and in the counties surrounding Dublin and Cork.
Both English and Irish are in oral and written, official and informal use in Ireland. Irish is a Celtic language and therefore is a member of the Indo-European family of languages. It is akin to Scottish Gaelic and Manx and is related more distantly to Welsh, Breton and Cornish. It is a significantly older language than English. From the middle of the nineteenth century, Irish declined rapidly from being the language of the majority of the population to its position today as a minority language in Ireland. In the last decade as a consequence of inward migration, there is now a wide range of different languages in daily use in Ireland.
The 1937 Constitution of Ireland (Bunreacht na hÉireann) states that Irish (Gaeilge), is the first official language. The Constitution recognises English as the second official language. The reality for the large majority of the Irish population is that English is the mother tongue and the language of daily usage.
Pupils are obliged to study Irish and English,in primary and second level schools unless they have an exemption. Exemptions generally apply to students educated outside Ireland up to the age of 11, those aged over 11 re-entering Irish schools after at least a 3 year break studying abroad, those with learning disabilities of a severity which means they are not attaining expected outcomes in their mother tongue, political refugees, children of foreign diplomats, and those who can speak neither Irish nor English on starting school.
The Official Languages Act 2003 obliges Departments of State and public bodies (including educational institutions such as universities) to deliver services through Irish as well as English. The primary objective of the Act is to ensure better availability and a higher standard of public services through Irish.
In spite of official efforts to encourage its use, Irish is now spoken as an everyday language in limited areas of the country. Most of these areas are located along the western seaboard and are known collectively as the Gaeltacht. Under successive Gaeltacht Area Orders legislation in 1956, 1967, 1974 and 1982, the parts of Ireland called the Gaeltacht were defined. At present, the Gaeltacht comprises five wards and 150 district electoral divisions or parts of wards in seven counties – Cork, Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Mayo, Meath and Waterford. There has been an increase in the population of the Gaeltacht areas since the census of 1991. In 1991 there were 83,268 persons. By the 2011 census, the numbers had increased to 96,628. However, the proportion of those who speak Irish regularly in Gaeltacht areas is declining. In 1996, 76.3% of those aged 3 years and over were Irish speakers. This proportion had dropped to 72.6% in 2002, to 70.8% in 2006, and to 68.5% in 2011.
Speakers of Irish – Overall Population
The Census of 2011 shows the number of persons who speak Irish has increased to 1,774,437 in 2011, compared with 1,656,790 in 2006. Of these 29.3% (27.3% in 2006) speak Irish daily within the education system, and a further 10.6% speak it daily or weekly outside education (also 10.6% in 2006).
Languages on the Curriculum in Schools
Although modern languages are not part of the primary curriculum, approximately 550 of the primary schools participated in the Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative (MLPSI) which was established as a pilot project in September 1998. Its aim was to introduce modern languages (Italian, Spanish, German or French) at primary level. MLPSI schools availed of the discretionary time provided in the curriculum to teach the target language for between one hour and one and a half hours per week, mainly to pupils in fifth and sixth class. The teaching was provided by either members of staff or visiting teachers. The MLPSI ended in June 2012. The decision to end the scheme took account of a 2008 Report by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA). The report identified serious issues with curricular overload at primary level. The NCCAs advice recommended for the present modern languages should not be part of the primary school curriculum as an additional and separate subject. The advice in relation to curriculum overload predated the wake up call on literacy and numeracy triggered by the PISA results. The decision to end the scheme was also taken in the context of the priority given to literacy (i.e. the teaching of English and Irish) and numeracy arising from the implementation of the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy. Meanwhile, schools continue to offer an additional modern language outside of the normal school day if they so wish.
A range of languages, apart from Irish and English, is available on the curriculum in most post-primary schools. These include modern languages offered at junior and senior cycle (French, German, Italian and Spanish) as well as three languages offered by some post-primary schools at senior cycle (Arabic, Japanese and Russian). Chinese is being introduced as a short course, as part of junior cycle reform.
Languages spoken in the Population
The Census 2011 shows that 12% of the population are non-Irish nationals. 11.4% of the population (of whom 3% are Irish nationals) speak a language other than Irish or English at home. Of the 260,999 who have lived abroad and who speak a language other than Irish or English at home, 81% indicated they could speak English either "well" or "very well."
No one religion was defined as the official religion of the State. However, in reality, a large majority of the people are Roman Catholic. The numbers of those belonging to minority Christian denominations declined after the foundation of the State. Under the Constitution of the Free State of Ireland, enacted in 1922, freedom of conscience and freedom to profess and practice religion were guaranteed, subject to public order and morality.
The Constitution enacted in 1922 was replaced in 1937, and this document remains in place today. The 1937 Constitution can only be amended by a majority vote at a referendum. A number of articles of the 1937 Constitution of Ireland, Bunreacht na h-Eireann, reflect Roman Catholic social thinking and teaching of the time. These are underpinned by the notion of subsidiarity, stressing minimal State interference in the life of the family. These include the article (41) dealing with the family and marriage, and the article dealing with education (42). Article 42 states that parents are the 'primary and natural educator' of their child(ren) and defines the role of the State in this regard as requiring that children receive 'a certain minimum education, moral, intellectual and social'. Article 44.4 provides that legislation providing State aid for schools shall not discriminate between schools under the management of different religious denominations, nor prejudice the right of any child to attend a school receiving public money without attending religious instruction in that school.
Denominational bodies played an important role in the provision of health and education, a situation that had its origins in the 19th century prior to the foundation of the State. Religious bodies owned and managed most schools at primary and post-primary level. Almost all primary schools remain in the ownership and control of religious bodies, be they religious orders or parish bodies.
The current distribution of schools no longer reflects the diversity in Irish society. The Census 2011 shows that 84.2% of the population are Roman Catholic, 4.5% are other Christian religions, 1.1% are Muslim, 1.0% are Orthodox, 1.8% are members of other religions, and 7.5% have either no religion or did not state their religion. Approximately 90% of primary schools are in Roman Catholic control, most others are controlled by the minority Protestant denominations (including the Church of Ireland, the Methodist and Presbyterian churches). There are a handful of schools operated by other religious groups including the Irish Islamic and Jewish communities.
Since the 1970s, groups of parents have become active in founding multi-denominational schools. Patronage of Schools in Section 2 of the Reform Chapter, sets out the policy to provide for greater diversity within the school system since 2011. The number of multi-denominational schools (Educate Together or Community National) is now 101 (September 2016). Under the Action Plan for Education 2016-2019, there is a target to increase this to 400 multi or non- denominational schools by 2030.
Employment and Unemployment
% Rates of Employment and Unemployment
Quarter 4, 2000
Quarter 4, 2005
Quarter 4, 2008
Quarter 3, 2012
Quarter 4, 2012
Quarter 2, 2016
Source: Quarterly National Household Survey
Unemployment reached its peak in 2012, and reduced from a high of 15% to 8.6% in Q2 of 2012. The rate of unemployment fell to 7.9% in September 2016.