Speak directly to the people of 2121 - census to have time capsule question

Eight new questions will appear in the next census in 2021

People will be asked about their smoking habits and  their daily commutes in 2021. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill Dara Mac Donaill

People will be asked about their smoking habits and their daily commutes in 2021. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill Dara Mac Donaill


The 2021 census will include a time capsule to allow this generation speak directly to their as yet unborn descendants and to the historians of the 22nd Century.

For the first time the census form will include a space for people to write messages which will be stored securely and confidentially for 100 years.

In recent years the State has released digitised census forms from 1901 and 1911 which contain somewhat sketchy information about the numbers living in particular houses, their genders, ages and occupations.

But as a result of the changes announced today people alive in 2121 will be able to learn a whole lot more about the lives of people living today.

Declarions of love, hopes for the future and possibly confessions of dark deeds done are likely to feature large in the headlines of the next century’s newspapers.

It will not be mandatory to write a note on the form and people can choose to leave it blank.

In addition to the time capsule, eight new questions will appear in the next census while a further 25 questions have been modified.

People will be asked about their smoking habits, their daily commutes and childcare arrangements and if they have working smoke alarms in their homes. Other new questions will reference renewable energy sources, internet access and devices, working from home and volunteering

As well as agreeing to the new questions, the census date has also been set for Sunday April 18th, 2021.

Between October and November 2017, the Central Statistics Office held a public consultation and invited submissions on the content of the form for the 2021 census.

Members of the public, interest groups, Government departments, local authorities and other public bodies, as well as the research and academic communities, made over 400 submissions to which included suggestions for new questions and changes to existing questions on the form.

The submissions were considered by the Census Advisory Group (CAG which agreed on the questions that should be tested in the Census Pilot Survey which was carried out in September 2018 in 35 Enumeration Areas across seven counties.

Following an examination of the Pilot results, the CAG recommended the introduction of the eight new questions in Census 2021. Changes were agreed to 25 existing questions including disability, ethnic group, religion and the Irish language.

“The value of the statistical information provided by the census cannot be overestimated,” said the CSO’s Senior Statistician Cormac Halpin. “It drives policy, targets services where needed and informs our decisions at a time of continuing social change.”

He said there was “an international element to the next census as every other EU member state will also be required to carry out a census in 2021.”