Census 2022: Number of Catholics in the State falls from 79% of population to 69% as country ages

Number of pensioners has doubled since 1986 while one in five people living in the Republic have been born outside the country


Ireland is becoming older, more diverse and less religious, according to the latest census data.

The population stood at 5,149,139 on census night in April of last year, up from 4,761,865 in 2016. It has increased further since then as the census only included 18,000 Ukrainians residents at that time, with the figure closer to 75,000 now.

The population is getting progressively older. The average age of people in Ireland increased from 36.1 in 2011 to 37.4 in 2016 to 38.8 last year. Our ageing population is perhaps reflected in a drop in the proportion of people who reported their health was good or very good, down from 87 per cent in 2016 to 83 per cent last year. The proportion of pensioners in the State has doubled since 1986, from 8 per cent to 16 per cent.

The number of people in the State who call themselves Catholic has fallen significantly, from 79 per cent to 69 per cent, though there is a caveat. The Central Statistics Office (CSO) believes this sharp drop may have something to do with how the question was framed.


The question was previously “what is your religion?”, assuming the respondent had a religion. The question last year, following representations from the Humanist Association, was “what is your religion, if any?”

In Dublin city, just over half of the population (53 per cent) identified as Catholic, the lowest level in the country, while Mayo (80 per cent) had the highest percentage of self-identifying Catholics.

The percentage who declared they have no religion increased from 10 to 14 per cent, with the highest rate (24 per cent) recorded in the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown area.

For the first time, Census 2022 shows that net migration is a greater driver of population growth than natural increase (births less deaths). Between 2016 and 2022, net migration increased by 219,787. Natural increase made up 167,487 of the change.

More than a million people (1,017,437), or 20 per cent of the population, were born outside the State, an increase of 207,031 from 2016. Just 77 per cent of the population identify as white Irish.

The percentage of non-Irish citizens has increased from 11 per cent to 12 per cent of the overall population, and those with dual nationality has increased by 63 per cent to 170,597, just over 3 per cent of the population.

Polish remains the largest non-Irish nationality in the country, but the numbers have fallen by almost a quarter since 2016 from 122,515 to 93,680. This may reflect the strength of the Polish economy in recent years.

The number of people from the UK has fallen from 103,113 to 83,347 in the last six years, but many may have availed of dual nationality after Brexit.

Almost a third of the workforce (747,961 people) now work from home for at least some of the week, with the highest rates among business, media and public service professionals.

Average rents had increased by 37 per cent, to €273 per week or €1,183 per month, between 2016 and last April. The rate of home ownership has been in steady decline since 2011, falling from 70 per cent to 68 per cent in 2016 to 66 per cent in last year.

Asked about the trend in the Dáil yesterday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar acknowledges that “many people in their 20s and 30s, even 40s are unable to purchase their own home at the moment” but that around 400 people were buying their first home every week at present.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times