June 4, 2023

What Census 2022 Reveals About How Ireland is Changing

The report on the census illustrates Ireland's transformation

The first major report on the 2022 census was released this week.  The results show how quickly Ireland has changed in a short period of time.  

It was the size of our population increase that attracted most of the headlines.  From a low of 2.8 million people in the 1960s, we now have 5.1 million residents in the country – the highest figure for the 26 counties since 1851.  The census shows that we added 1 million of those people in just the past 17 years, making us one of the fastest growing countries in the EU.  

This growth isn’t due to a high birth rate (like every country in Europe, Irish women are bearing fewer children than are needed to naturally sustain the population), rather it’s due to a combination of the fact that we are living longer than ever and that we are attracting inward migration to sustain our growing economy.  In fact, the Irish now enjoy the longest life expectancy of any EU country.

That inward migration is contributing to a huge increase in diversity.  Twenty percent of Irish residents today were born elsewhere.  That proportion is second only to Luxembourg amongst EU nations and exceeds the figure for both the UK and the US today.  And the figure has doubled in just 20 years.  (The greatest number were born in the UK, India, or central European countries such as Poland, Lithuania or Romania.)

There is much greater religious diversity with 7-in-10 of us declaring as Catholics, compared to 9-in-10 back in 2002.  Similarly, our workforce is more gender diverse with 56% of women aged over 15 in employment – the highest figure ever.

I also love the fact that over 710,000 people said that they volunteer their time for some passion or other – typically with a sports, community, or charity organisation.  That’s nearly 1-in-5 adults, and it contributes to us being deemed the most generous nation in Europe in terms of the time and money we give to help others (according to the Charities Aid Foundation).

I was invited on to Brendan O’Connor’s RTE Radio 1 show to discuss these changes and other examples of Ireland’s positive progress.  Listen to the clip here.

Brendan O'Connor and Mark Henry on Brendan's RTE Radio 1 show
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