Census 2016: snapshot of a fast-changing Ireland

An ageing population is reflected in a rise in the dependency ratio

Although the population of this State continues to rise, now standing at 4,761,865, as does the number of residents born outside Ireland (810,406), the last five years has also seen a reverse in the pattern of net inward migration that had established itself briefly in the Celtic Tiger years. Natural population growth, the excess of births over deaths, still surpasses the migration figures, but net outward migration from the State over the five years to 2016 is estimated at 28,558, compared to the net inward migration of 115,800 over the previous five years.

Some 82,346 people moved to Ireland in the year to April 2016, of which nearly a quarter (28,1430) were returning Irish nationals, with the main countries of origin being the UK, Australia and the US.

The CSO figures, published yesterday from Census 2016, give added depth to the preliminary data that became available last July, providing a fascinating window on our fast-changing society and the many policy challenges it faces. Take housing – the CSO finds that of the total housing stock, only a paltry two per cent was added in the five years leading up to Census 2016 (some 33,436 homes). This compares with 431,763 homes built between 2001 and 2011.

And while the figures show that Ireland remains a predominantly Catholic country, the numbers identifying as such on the census have fallen sharply from 84.2 per cent to 78.3 per cent in five years. The number who say they have “no religion” grew by 73.6 per cent, or 198,600, to 468,400. That is now one in 10 of the population. The number of Muslims increased by 14,200.


The gradual ageing of the population is also reflected in an increase in the numbers supported by those at work, the dependency ratio. The total dependency ratio increased from 49.3 per cent in 2011 to 52.7 per cent in 2016, 90 per cent of which reflects the expanding old-age cohort. Although the number of those aged 15-64 increased by 44,477 over the five years, the number of those aged 65 and over rose by 102,174 – more than twice that amount.