Irish population rose by record 3.5% last year, says European Commission

Increase of 181,000 in the population is twice that estimated by the Central Statistics Office

What is the population of the Republic of Ireland? The question is more than of just statistical interest, given the prominence recently of the issues of immigration and housing.

According to the European Commission, the population of the State increased by 3.5 per cent last year – the largest increase on record.

The AMECO (annual macroeconomic database of the European Commission’s Directorate General for Economic and Financial Affairs) estimates that the Irish population reached 5,348,700 at the end of 2023, compared to 5,165,000 at the end of 2022. That is a rise of 183,000 in a single year.

The EC does not comment on why a population increases, but the Central Statistics Office (CSO) has estimated that more than 100,000 Ukrainian refugees arrived in Ireland between February 2022 and the end of last year.


If confirmed, it would surpass the previous record of a 2.95 per cent increase in the population between 2006 and 2007 when the Celtic Tiger was still roaring.

According to economist David Higgins, a 3.5 per cent increase in population in a given year would be one of the highest ever recorded for a single country.

“Ireland isn’t just registering its highest ever population growth, or the highest growth of any European country in 2023, we are setting records for some of the largest population growth events in history,” he said. “Our 3.5 per cent in on a par with Malta in 2018, which also saw large asylum arrivals.”

The EC figures are also at odds with those produced by Eurostat, the statistical arm of the European Union, which estimates that the population rose by even more – up by 4.2 per cent in 2023 from 5,060,000 at the start of the year to 5,271,400 by the end of the year, an increase of 211,000.

They are also at odds with those produced by the Central Statistics Office, which calculates population increases from one April to another. It estimates that the population increased by 1.9 per cent (5,184,000 in April 2022 to 5,281,600 in April last year), an additional 97,600 people.

It based these figures on a natural increase of 19,000 (births less deaths) and net migration of 77,600. It says that last year, 141,600 immigrants – predominantly Ukrainian refugees – entered the State and 64,000 left.

The official CSO census figure for April 2022 was for 5,149,139. The discrepancy between the CSO’s census figures and its actual population estimate is accounted for by the fact that the census does not include people ordinarily resident in the country who are abroad on the night it is taken.

A CSO spokeswoman declined to comment on the AMECO figures except to say that they are based on projections for the end of 2023 rather than actual figures. She said the full extent of the population increase in the Republic will not become apparent until September, when the CSO publishes its figures on the State’s population for the 12 months to April.

AMECO is forecasting that the Irish population will continue to grow this year and next year but at a slower rate of 1.5 per cent and 1.1 per cent respectively.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times