Some Cheerful Demographic Statistics

To take our minds off the heavier economic / financial topics for a while I thought I would share some thoughts provoked by the Annual Summary of Vital Statistics for 2010 published at the end of June. Taken in conjunction with the preliminary results of the 2011 Census, it reveals some surprisingly positive trends for a country in the throes of a very deep recession.

Our birth rate is holding up despite the surge in unemployment and the resumption of net emigration (even if at a more modest rate than previously feared).

Over 75,000 births were registered in 2008 – almost 60% more than in 1994 and the highest number recorded in modern times. However, this was probably the peak, as the annual total for 2010 was 2% lower than that for 2008, while the 2010Q4 figure was 4% lower than the corresponding figure for 2008.

The surge in births will have far-reaching implications for the economy’s medium-term prospects.  Most immediately it is placing pressure on the educational system, but over the longer run it could be argued that our relatively youthful population will bestow a competitve advantage relative to the rest of Europe, where the ageing of populations is becoming an acute problem.

The pattern of births by family size (or number of previous children born to the mother) is revealing. The number of first births passed the 30,000 mark in 2008, which was a historic peak and some 50% higher than the number recorded in the late 1990s. The figure for 2010 was only 2.5% below this peak – suggesting that the number of young couples in the population is holding steady. On the other hand, the number of births to already-large families (four or more children) has fallen by 17.7% in the last three years. The accelerated decline in the number of large families is one of the factors behind the continuing fall in average household size noted by other contributors to the site. However, these developments do not suggest that that we are moving rapidly to the extremely lower fertility rates now common in southern, central, and eastern Europe.

One category of births that has declined steadily since the turn of the century is the number of births to mothers aged under 20 (almost 90 per cent of whom are unmarried). This is partly due to the decline in the number of teenagers in the population, but the rate per 1,000 relevant population has fallen by almost 15% since 2007. This answers a question raised by Cormac Ó Gráda who drew attention to the drop in the proportion of births to young unmarried mothers since the turn of the century in an earlier post.  He wondered if these trends would survive the recession. The answer is ‘yes’.

The increase in  the number of births of the past fifteen years made great demands on the maternity side of our health services, yet the infant mortality rate declined from 6.0 per 1,000 births in the mid-1990s to 3.8 in 2010, which is below the UK rate. At the other end of the life cycle, the news on the mortality front continues to be good (unless you are in the pensions business!). The gains in life expectancy that have been recorded in Ireland over the last decade are continuing. The death rate among the population aged 65 and over has fallen from 70 per 1,000 in 1999 to 40 per 1,000 last year, with a 4.8% fall in 2010 alone. The large drop in this death rate in 2010 is surprising in view of the exceptionally severe weather experienced at the beginning and end of the year. Disentangling the contributions of better lifestyles, improved housing conditions and progress in health care to these trends is a challenging research agenda.

The data on deaths from ‘external’ causes such as accidents and violence (whether self-inflicted or otherwise) also reveal some surprisingly positive trends. Between 2007 and 2010 the total number of deaths attributed to all these causes declined by 4.5%. Accidental deaths fell by 10.1%. The number of homicides was 5% lower. Consistent with this, the just-published Report on Recorded Crime for 2011Q2 shows that the decline in all major categories of crime that began in 2010 accelerated in the first half of 2011, with some of the most important categories down by over 30%.

While the total of suicides and the closely-related category of ‘deaths due to events of undetermined intent’ was 5.2% higher in 2010 than in 2007, it fell by 15.7% between 2009 and 2010.

In view of the role of alcohol in many forms of violence and accidents, it is relevant to note that Irish alcohol consumption has fallen steeply since the onset of the recession. The yield of excise taxes on alcoholic beverages declined by 27% between 2007 and 2010 – and by almost 15% in 2010 alone. This reflects falling sales rather than any changes in tax rates. While this trend aggravates our fiscal plight, it seems to be having a salutary effect on our national health. The dampening influence of the recession on alcohol consumption and possibly also drug use seems to be offsetting the impact of the social disruption caused by high unemployment.

92 replies on “Some Cheerful Demographic Statistics”


Enjoyable article. Thank you.

So according to these figures (and the changes in retirement age) Ireland will not have a “pension time bomb” until 2076 .

Of course in between we will neeed to think about education health and housing. Oh I almost forgot! The latter should not be a problem if we have 200 000 surplus houses. Then again NAMA apparently has only 8000 residential properties in Ireland on its books !!!!!

There are a few papers by economists and others that show that recessions are good for population health (measured by mortality) e.g. Chris Ruhm (QJE 2000) – interestingly he finds that suicide is the exception.

I find the new health Puritanism withen Ireland deeply disturbing & alien – I wonder is it a counter reaction to the lack of power withen society to do anything of substance.
Stormtroopers who are claiming they are disturbing my privacy for my own benefit are everywhere now.

Apologies for going off topic Brendan, and delete this if you wish, but I’ve been hopping up and down with bemusement at the numbers the CIF has been trying to sell us today.

From the Irish Times:
‘While he acknowledged the construction industry represented an “unsustainable” 25 per cent of the economy during the boom years, Mr Parlon told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland this morning that the sector was currently “trailing” at “around 4 or 5 per cent”.

“What we should be is about 12-15 per cent”.’

Going by Eurostat National Accounts data on value added, the construction industry peaked at 10.6% of value added in Ireland in 2006, down to 5.6% in 2010. Taking a sample made up of construction’s share in each EU country for each year from 2000 to 2010, you get an average of 6.5%. It seems to be unlikely that the sustainable level for Ireland is very much above that.

Assuming that Mr. Parlon did not just pick his numbers out of thin air, there would appear to be a problem with the ones he picked not being comparable with each other.

It would be funny if we were not still crippled by the effects of the last trip into la-la concreteland.

Measuring alcohol consumption trends by way of excise duty yields requires a little care.

What about the heavy buying of alcohol in Newry, Enniskillen, etc? (incl bringing back wine etc from holidays/trips in France, Spain, etc).


A democratic peaceful state , with high birth rate, increasing longevity, falling crime rates, reducing alcohol consumption, no mass exodus and no housing shortage.
Surely these statistics cannot refer to the same small Northwest European country which is “mourned” and “waked” regularly, in various fora, as if it was some basket case barely clinging on to the the fringes of a much more socially sophisticated and advanced continent.:)

On Brendan’s excellent and heartening post, a couple of thoughts.

1) Could it be that the vast additional resources dumped into healthcare and the establishment of the maligned HSE have together actually done us a power of good?

2) Could it be that growing up in the early years of the State had stresses that had persistent effects on health, which dissipated by the end of “The Emergency”?


“Our birth rate is holding up despite the surge in unemployment and the resumption of net emigration”

If you listen very very carefully, you might just be able to hear a thunderous JtO somewhere hammering out a comment on his computer. You’d better look out!

When the Public House no longer became open to all sinners Ireland died.
No longer could we have a Pint on a equal footing – some needed to go into the confession box as they were sinning.
The projection of such forceful poltical correctness can be devastating to a primitive pagan society.
It think people started to become blind to it back in the early 80s.

And watching RTÉ now, not only are we a democratic peaceful state , with high birth rate, increasing longevity, falling crime rates, reducing alcohol consumption, no mass exodus and no housing shortage, but we might have oil as well! Apart from having a huge debt, things could be worse!

@Brendan Walsh:

Thankfully the new births are most welcome, but on a lighter note, I recall the story of the electricity shutdown in New York for approx two days in one particulary cold winter.

Lo and behold, no doubt as a result of the booming economy, nine months later the maternity hospitals could not cope with number of patients and arrivals.

The dampening influence of the recession on alcohol consumption and possibly also drug use….

I have never seen more drugs being used in this country than are being used today.

A short trip down O’Connell Street, Liffey Street, Templebar in fact the whole inner city is awash with drugs, drug users and drug dealers even Grafton Street. The black economy for alcohol, cigarettes and the use of internet to order “head shop” type drugs has exploded. It is having a devastating effect. Trust the statisticians to be totally unaware of what is ‘actually’ going on as they sit at their computers.

Brendan, have you analysed births to unmarried mothers? I think the narrative has changed there? – The traditional stereotype of the poor young unmarried mother had changed and many single mothers now are older. So what might have been categorised as a “burden” are actually just older moms, who might be unmarried but in relationships..not sure if the figures illuminate that one much…

btw, Just watched Newsnight on the dustbowl states. Massive homelessness, unemployment, repossessions, mass deportations…. We know nawthing……..This is still a good country in which to endure a recession……


O’Connell, Liffey St, Templebar….Hardly indicative of “this country”. I lived in Parnell Sq in 1990’s and in Smithfield for several years in the noughties. The inner city area always had a concentration of the rougher side of life…It never ceased to amaze me how just by crossing O’Connell Bridge everyone began to look cleaner and healthier.

@ Sarah

Trust me I would not be saying this unless I knew what I was talking about.

I disagree with you about O’Connell Street. It is the pulse of the capital and indicative of what is happening all over the country. What happens on that street with our parliament not more than a few hundred meters away is crucial. If you guys want to put your heads in the sand and ignore it, so be it, but it won’t be long before respectable middle class Ireland comes to regret keeping their heads in the sand and telling themselves this this will all pass. 40,000 people have been robbed or assaulted since the start of 2011 according to the An Garda and all this was not on the northside or in your old stomping ground you will be glad to know. We have a drugs epidemic in this country.

This is better news than any Troika interest rate modification. How are your emigration figures holding up? As much as I enjoy the economic speculation here, at the end of the day, you need people and Ireland alone, in Western Europe may have the ONLY solution to our economic malaise.

Demography got a bad name during the bubble. As for the future, we should be cautious about assuming that a rising population will inevitably lead to a return to high growth in the medium term.

Some apparently self-evident assumptions easily become mantras e.g. for example the common reaction to rising services exports – – hedge fund administration for example does not require many PhDs.

There are 78,000 foreign nationals on the Live Register, which with dependents could bring the total on welfare to over 200,000.

The welfare system which has a large number of schemes for families, must have had some impact in keeping the number of overseas residents high.

Short-term payment rates for a single person in 2010 were 80% above the 2001 level, compared with a 22% rise in consumer inflation. It’s a similar pattern for other categories.

In 2010, there were 92,000 claimants of the single parent allowance and 51,000 had 1 child.

The entitlement burdens in US and Ireland; Irish welfare budget doubled to 17% of GNP since 2001

@Brendan Walsh

Interesting article. Are you suggesting that reduction in alcohol is linked to increased sexual activity, resulting in a high birth rate? Well I never.

Two things I’ve noticed 1) the supermarket in Newry is always packed with people from the Republic buying booze (not so much that it’s yards cheaper but that you get better quality for the same money 2) there has been an explosion of really cheap wine for sale in the majority of shops south of the border (I can’t believe how many sell a bottle of plonk for a fiver now). As my old Dad used to say, “life is too short to drink cheap wine.”

@Robert Browne

I would tend to agree with you about the spread of the drugs problem in Ireland – and not just in Dublin. I think similar patterns emerged in Scotland and Wales, where drug use accelerated during economically difficult times, particularly amongst the under-30 unemployed and in the smaller towns (sorry, can’t remember the reference but it was a bona fide study – might have been Swansea University?). In Dublin, I often visit the IFSC and believe me, I never walk along the quays any more. Personally, I think Malaysia has the appropriate deterrent for drug dealers and we should adopt it here.

@Sarah Carey

“Just watched Newsnight on the dustbowl states. Massive homelessness, unemployment, repossessions, mass deportations…. ”

I didn’t see it – are you talking about the USA? Deportations? I know it’s a bit of a police state these days… but who are they deporting/to where?

I never knew we were Smithfield neighbours in the noughties. Is it my imagination or are you writing less these days (you haven’t joined the so-called mass rush for the exit from Ireland have you?)?

Refreshing and very interesting article.

I would suugest that the reduction in alcohol consumption could also be influenced by large numbers of immigrants leaving. Anecdotally at least there was a fairly high level of alcohol consumption among some immigrant groups.

With people living longer probably using more hospital realted health services and the increased number of young children using GP and non hospital medical services, it certainly will be a difficult task to make savings in the Health budget over the next years.

@Cillian and others

Reliability of the data on alcohol consumption.

1. I used the Revenue data on excises because their detailed Statistical Report for 2010 is not yet available. For earlier years I have a time series based on the details on sales of beer, wine, spirits, and cider ‘retained for home use’. These can be converted to their ethanol equivalent to give a figure for alcohol consumption. The two approaches reveal an almost identical picture for recent years:

Excise revenue: Vol of Alcohol
2007 100 100
2008 95 94
2009 86 86
2010 73 ?

2. Cross border traffic etc.
The Revenue data refer to sales in Ireland. While they exclude purchases by Irish residents in other jurisdictions, they include purchases by visitors to Ireland. I do not think that changes in the balance of these two streams would account for much of the decline documented above.

Finally, bear in mind that these figures do not take account of any growth in population since 2007 – presumably the per capita figures would show a steeper fall.

@PR Guy

On the US – deportation to Mexico. Great report here (sigh, to have the BBC’s resources..

Arizona introduced a new law whereby anyone stopped for regular traffic offences etc has to produce evidence they are legal residents. Normally in the US they have always strictly separated law enforcement and immigration regulation. The Arizona statute makes it much easier to round up illegal immigrants.
Now funnily enough – our instincts are often to sympathise with poor Mexicans over nutter American sheriffs, (or at least I always do) but the sheriff they interviewed was pretty convincing. He said – employers like cheap immigrant labour – but to hell with them – they should pay a proper wage. And – don’t tell me with 15% unemployment that no American will wash a car or mow a lawn.
Anyway, it was the sheer scale of the problem – and the desolation. Big drought in those states (Oklahoma – Texas – New Mexico – Arizona) and farmers being forced into selling cattle early – nothing growing etc. It’s heartbreaking.
“Third World Health System” always drives me mad, since obviously our health system is very much 1st world (check out the reductions in breast cancer deaths reported today).
But in comparison to a “1st World” country, like the US – we are waaaaay ahead.

But they believe in the Lord…….!

On my writing less – eh, yes, not in demand these days Pr Guy!! But watching events without being required to comment on them in 900 smart words gives one an excellent perspective. Standby…


I wouldn’t deny that drug use is up – and certainly here in rural Ireland we keep hearing about huge drug busts in houses within a few miles of our idyll in Meath. Also, my experience in Smithfield made me realise that the worst kind of ghettos are middle class ones where everyone can easily forget how the other half lives. (Rural Ireland provides a much better social mix – our cul de sac has a much richer variety of people and class then you’ll find in a regular housing estate).
But…D1 and 7….is not representative.


Forgive me if I leverage the blog for my own purposes.
My show on Newstalk tomorrow (sob – 9am on a Bank Holiday…) needs an expert on American politics. A feisty female is always good ,but a charming man will do…Any ideas?


Had an excellent course whilst in UCD with Professor Liam Kennedy (Director of UCD’s clinton institute).

Doesn’t lack charm!

@Sarah Carey
” – our instincts are often to sympathise with poor Mexican immigrants over nutter American sherrifs…… but the sherrif they inerviewed was pretty convincing.”

About what, exactly?

Taken together with (the usually very “sound”) Michael Hennigan’s statistics ( possibly) directly linking ” foreign nationals”, “welfare” and “92,000 claimants of the single parent allowance”, I’m getting distinctly uneasy about where this thread might be going.

As an Irish “foreign national” in my current ( and for almost 30 years), non”Irish” base of work and residence, I trust I’m wrong!

@Brendan Walsh
Excellent article.
Am I correct in assuming Consumption is the value rather than the volume of Alcohol?

If so I would also caution on the Alcohol figures though. People may be spending less on Alcohol but I don’t think that means that the amount of alcohol being consumed is down.

Its not just Trips to Newry it is the growth of the carry out trade and the demise of the Pubs which generally charge
Speaking of Pubs.
In My local they have an offer where you can have 3 pints of any Draught beer for €10. Up to this offer I was paying 4.60-4.90 a pint.
I am still drinking the same amount but my alcohol spend is down about 30%

@Brendan Walsh
sorry I missed your last post.
So consumption is the amount rather than €value.
In that case these figures are a pleasant surprise.


Well, he made 2 points.
1. This is about employers exploiting cheap labour for cash. If you want labour, you should pay a fair rate and pay your taxes. (and the employee should pay his taxes too). I think that’s a reasonable ethical position.
2. People say “Americans won’t do this kind of work!” (ie wash cars, mow lawns). He said – we have 15% unemployment. An American will wash your car.

Of course, there is the simple legal point. They are illegal immigrants….

(eh, not that if I was from a poor country with no prospects and thought I could do better elsewhere I wouldn’t give it a shot….but I’m just sayin’ the deportation zeal does have a reasonable legal and ethical basis – too easy to write them off as crazies)

@Sarah Carey

The BBC have an idealogical bias when dealing with immigration issues and this was evident in the Newsnight programme.
SB1070 which they claim was being enforced has been challenged and is on hold until the Supreme court makes a decision on it.
Having travelled through Arizona on several occasions it is evident that illegal immigration is a major problem.
Recently SCOTUS ruled that states may Constitutionally mandate the use of E-Verify system of verification of the legal status of any prospective employee.Employers who subsequently hire illegal immigrants can lose their business ,face fines and possible gaol.
Sheriff Arapaio who was interiviewed on newsnight closed down two businesses shortly after e verify came in to effect.
The Southern States which border Mexico are suffering from large scale illegal immigration.

In our case in Ireland 25% of the births reported were to non nationals.The overall increase in our population and the crashing economy has ensured a very significant decline in GNP per head .
In fact a falling population which maintains a good infrastructure with little growth can still have a high standard of living.i.e. an increase in GNP per head.

Ireland and the southern US border States have much in common;a large influx of highly fertile immigrants with low education from third world countries,high dependence on social welfare and intra generational poverty.Unless it can be shown otherwise the trajectory Ireland is now on is towards the profile one expects to find in a third world country.
So how many BMW type ,high tech companies will mushroom here in the future as a coonsequence of a rapidly expanding population.?

@Sarah: What’s your take then on the tens of thousands of Irish citizens who are “illegal immigrants” in the US? Do you think it is correct for the Ieish government to lobby on their behalf as it has done so often?

@Sean: do you have any numbers to back the profile you paint of immigrants in Ireland or are you just stating your opinion?


Yup ( I wasn’t wrong about where this thread is going).

You’re saying, Sarah, that as long as the “deportation zeal” has a “legal and ethical basis”. That’s it then. (just like “deportation zeal” laws in Germany or Vichy France during WW2). “They are illegal immigrants” you say.

Actually (and I have businesses in Arizona so I know!), it cannot be established that THEY are illegal immigrants until THEY ,and many other “non-white” Arizonans are pulled over and checked first! Legal residents committing ( traffic) crimes are generally not considered to be criminals, the basis on which the illegal immigrants, who may have been paying taxes for years, are deported.

I thought this thread was to be about “cheerful demographics” and its economic implications for Ireland and the people living and working ( or not) there.

It is perfectly legitimate to discuss legal and illegal immigration and, indeed, to quantify its economic effects but, as I feared, we are beginning on the slippery slope that conflates immigration with the overall “welfare” challenge in Ireland, the vast bulk of which has nothing to do with immigration at all, legal or illegal.

Sean has us on a “trajectory towards the profile one expects to find in a third world country.”

No doubt none of “our”,”Irish” fault; it’s the immigrants, stupid!

What was that bang(s) in Oslo?

I think the Irish have a particular vulnerability to the free movement of labour meme.
Historically the country had to export labour as it had no control of its currency – so a national liberal narrative was constructed around the more primitive globalist forces of that time period.
This reached its cultural peak during the Bono / live aid era.
The post war period of exporting workers to follow Sterling /Dollars and subsequent reimportation of the Paddy the builder culture as European credit flooded the ballast tanks of the Irish economy was predictable if you believe bank credit is the fundamental driver of most human activities & cultural inventions.
Now that credit is leaving again we are struggling to come up with a narrative that will accommodate the past fairytales and yet export people / prevent further immagration into a economy that cannot service this new number of people at post war western standards.
Its best to watch the production of B$£lshit from a distance as the smell can be quite overpowering at times.


Few points…(I’m not sure if they’ll make a coherent thread but just some social observations..)

1. I’ve often bitten my lip as I’ve listened to people tell stories of heroic Irish illegal immigrants in American and their ingenius methods of avoiding detection who then go on to complain bitterly about illegal immigrants to Ireland. They seem to think we have a inherent right to the good life in Boston but anyone who tries it here is a criminal. When I challenge them on the inconsistency they tend to say that the Irish in America are working and paying taxes but the objects of their derision here are on social welfare. That is a difference, but then you’ll also find complaints of Polish builders etc undercutting Irish labourers here and how it’s not fair. So not much consistency going around.

2. If I was Mexican/Romanian/ Nigerian and I thought i’d half a chance at getting into a country where life was better I’d take that chance. But….I would know that getting caught and shipped home was a risk. So my position is: compassion for the individual but the law is the law.
btw, with regard to immigration panic the truth is that most migration is what they call South to South, not South to North ie. from one underdeveloped country to another, not from underdeveloped to developed countries. Poor countries bear the brunt of immigration from their even poorer neighbours.
Nigerians who make it here are probably the best off Nigerians. (which led a friend of mine to suggest that we should take a limited number of asylum seekers from under developed countries into Ireland but they should be selected and identified in-country (by aid agencies and missionaries) and flown here by us and welcomed into Ireland – greeted by Ministers. Anyone who shows up here claiming asylum clearly has significant resources and should be sent home immediately. Eh, I’m not endorsing this and yet……..)

3. Irish immigrants in America.

I think countries are entitled to make rules as to who should and shouldn’t live there. And I think governments are entitled to lobby other governments to get the best deal possible for their citizens. So I’ve no objection to the Irish government lobbying to make more Irish legal in America BUT I don’t think we should turn every deportation into the cruel act of a mean government. If you get caught – you get caught. You have knowingly broken the law and lived life on the fringe. There are risks.

4. Labour competition

I have sympathy with Irish/Americans who complain about cheap Eastern European/Mexican labour.
If you’re an Irish family then you need an income to cover basic needs. If you’re a single migrant worker, sharing accommodation with several others and no long term intention to stay, then you can afford to take a much lower salary. (which is exactly what Irish workers did in America). (oh and btw, obviously that’s a particular demographic – in our village we have many immigrant families (perfectly legal eu and non-eu) who are fully integrated and no intention of leaving and LOVE living here and play by the rules). Also! despite complaints about furriners holding back the Irish in the primary school we find, or rather our children complain, that the Asians and Russians are kicking their asses academically. I ended up laughing to my husband. He’s 6 and complaining about Asian competition!! (btw the difference clearly is domestic discipline….)

I do think there is a larger socio-political problem that liberal governments don’t take the grievances of the working and welfare dependent classes seriously. It’s alright for the professional classes to sneer at “racism” (as Gordon Browne did during the UK election) but they aren’t competing for scarce resources at the bottom of the heap. In fact I wonder if the refusal of mainstream politics to take the issue of immigration and how it impacts on poorer citizens seriously, could fuel far right immigration control groups….

Finally a word on Norway.

A few months I got chatting to a Norwegian couple on holiday. ( they asked me what I did and I said I’m a sort of journalist – whatever you tell me will inevitably be quoted as research sometime – and here I am..). I asked “So what’s the story? We keep hearing about the Scandinavian public service paradise. Does it work in real life?”

They hesitated and said cracks were beginning to appear.
The deal is – you pay high taxes, you get a great welfare net and public services.
The quid pro quo is….you have no excuse not to become a fully functioning tax paying member of society.
Grumblings had started that an influx of immigrants were breaking this social contract. (Somalis were identified in particular). They were availing of the great welfare and public services but then…nothing. They just kept taking and no giving. This was creating a debate with Norwegians saying – hey we didn’t sign up for this. They were all on for being nice to immigrants but…they expected them to sharpen up.

So look, ( sorry have gone on) but I think I’m saying – the establishment should stop dismissing conversations about immigration control as the rantings of racists. I think it should be taken more seriously. We have human rights obligations, we have labour market needs and we have global migration which we Irish have leveraged very well for our own needs. But all those things create problems for struggling lower working classes. I don’t see their problems being fairly covered by mainstream media and that in itself could exacerbate the problem. Most conflict is solved by simply acknowledging the problem…


@Sean @Sarah

“Ireland and the southern US border states have much in common; a large influx of highly fertile immigrants with low education from third world countries,….”

As I understand it the majority of our immigrants are from former Communist EU states most of which (except for possibly Romania and Bulgaria) cannot be considered “third world” countries. While many of these immigrants may not have advanced university level education most of them benefited from good levels of second level and vocational/post secondary level education.

Just because English is an addidtional language to East European immigrants is not an indication of “poor” levels of education. I am also not sure East European females are necessarily much more fertile than their Irish counterparts. The high birth rate amongst these females is probably due to the age group within which most of these female immigrants belong.

I do accept however that many East Europeans who possess advanced university degrees with very good command of English do not come to Ireland but this is probably due to the fact that they are happpy to take up positions in their own countries.

@Sarah: Thanks for your long reply. A few points.

1) I was referring specifically to lobbying on behalf of “illegal aliens” and am glad to see that you too see the hypocrisy.

2) In general people who immigrate are the ones who have the pluck and determination to do something to better their situation in life. A number of studies recently have shown that immigrants have an overall net positive impact on economies. All the moaning I hear about welfare scroungers whether in Scandinavia or UK is anecdotal. Perhaps the explanation is simply that when the going gets tough people look for a scapegoat and immigrants because they usually look and sound different and are a minority are good scapegoats? I mean there are far more indigenous people on welfare but we hear disproportionately more about immigrants. It is after all a primal human instinct to close ranks and blame the outsider. Ten thousand years ago you needed to be loyal to your band to survive. Not so today but the instinct lingers and is exploited by the gutter press to sell more papers.

Btw Ireland keeps asylum seekers in some of the worst conditions in Europe and does not allow them to work. And then you complain about welfare scroungers who don’t give back anything?

Well Thanks, Sarah, for the stab at what we call here a “cohérent” response.

I know nothing about you but have no difficulty accepting that you’re “a sort of journalist” as you say yourself. Another word we use here, not usually about “cohérent” arguments is “amalgam”, roughly a mish mash of badly thought out smidgens of gossip thrown together from diverse but indeterminate sources.

However, although my first reaction was to rush to endorse heartily the Dork’s “as the smell can be quite overpowering at times” response and leave it at that, there are serious points in your ( I think) sincere screed that need to be debated if only to prevent said smell from getting stronger.

A separate thread perhaps? About, demographics, including emigration and immigration but not demographics as a legal ( or illegal) immigration “welfare” zero sum game.

(By the way Nigeria, where I spent some years as a young man is a country projected to have a population of 750 million by 2050 and it and its peoples are just a little more complex than you portray them.)

Thanks once again for your long shot ( no need for “sorry to go on”) as I feel I’m getting you know you better.

BTW, the US for all it’s faults is by far the best country to be an immigrant in. Also can you imagine what the US would have been without it’s welcoming attitude to immigrants? A much poorer and less developed country for sure. Also no Google, no Cary Grant, no Pulitzer, no Annie Get Your Gun , no Arnie!

So perhaps Ireland could learn a bit from the US and take in a few more tired poor and hungry and become a greater country as a result.

If someone drives drunk a hundred times and does nt crash they are hurting no one.
If an illegal immigrant works a job and keeps his head down he hurts no one.
We are supposed to be equal before the law and be responsible in upholding the law even if no one is watching.
Idealogical extremism ,evident in some posters such as Richard Fedigan above ensures that issues of race etc are used as a battering ram to override the legal and political system when the issue is illegal immigration.
And extremism is an accurate depiction if a matter of public concern and policy cant be even alluded to without some people going over to the dark side of human history.


The 25 % of births to non nationals comes from this years Census.
Troll through the figures for work permits on the Department of Enterprise website by Nationality (exclude EU states) and match same up with the totals of PPS numbers (ref: Department of social welfare ) issued by nationality,numbers granted refugee status (ref:Department of Justice) and you will find major asymmetry in the figures.

For example if you take two nationalities Nigerian and Brazilian you will find an extraordinary number of PPS numbers issued as against a tiny number of work permits issued and refugee status granted.The anomalies cant be explained as students because month over month throughout the year ( you would nt expect students to enroll in March say) there are steady numbers of PPS numbers issued to these nationalities.
One possibility is they are producing a huge number of children but that does nt explain the high numbers of adult Brazilians and Nigerians.

Also the final figures from census 2006 show some Non EU nationals are hugely dependent on social welfare. 35 % of adult Nigerians were then on social welfare out of a population of over 16,000.

This was evidenced by immigrants rights groups at the time of a danger of intra generational poverty developing amongst these non nationals.


”I do accept however that many East Europeans who possess advanced university degrees with very good command of English do not come to Ireland but this is probably due to the fact that they are happpy to take up positions in their own countries”

These are the type of people who would be most beneficial.So Ireland is excluded by very well educated east europeans as an attractive destination.I think this supports rather than detracts from my assertions.

We have a rapidly expanding population to match a rapidly contracting economy whose existing infrastructure is under severe strain (hospitals,schools etc) ,an unsustainable national debt ,a bust banking system and an annual budget defecit which is frightening (over 60% of state revenue is expended on social welfare payments).
Where is the evidence this type of expanding population is good for our future?

Ireland is by most measures seriously underpopulated, and I think many people here who haven’t lived in poorer densely populated countries like China rarely appreciated the pros and cons of this.

I think on balance internal growth in population, as discussed in the original post, should be a good thing and promote a return to general growth, without the downsides of limited land and food a denser country might face. It’s not like you don’t have enough houses.

In terms of immigration, people joining your country is a serious thing and should be approached carefully, but for all its faults Ireland is still a very livable country and this can be used to encourage bright people from more competitive countries to settle here. A more open skills based visa programme could attract talent from many less livable places who would bring jobs with them. If you are to welcome people into your country it should be done with dignity, treating people like charity cases will just arouse resentment all round.

A nice steady birthrate is the target. Too many births can be just as harmful as too few as the dependency ratio climbs far quicker with new births than it does with simple ageing.

Indeed, (I’m sure noone will agree with me), I’m inclined to attribute the greatest part of the celtic tiger to the legalisation of condoms and the massive decline in family sizes in the late 80s and early 90s.

The previous generation had 12 kids in the house, but the succeeding generation had 2-3 kids and a mercedes. Simplistic, but correct IMO.

@Richard Fedigan
“the stab at what we call here”
What you call where?

I don’t see you on the contributor list for this site, so I presume you are another nut? I sincerely hope so, as that is the most unpleasant post I’ve had the misfortune to read in many a year… and I’ve spent a good few years reading a lot of unpleasant posts.

@Zhu Dee
If we truely are entering a period of malthusian correction due to fossil fuel depletion and non replacement then it might be the only comparative advantage we have over our Continental & British populations.

If we had control over our borders I would advocate a closing of borders outside of our most strategically powerful neighbours.
But the discussion is almost entirely acedemic.
I just see a complete breakdown ahead as the chain of command is completly divorced from any consequences until that breakdown arrives.

Hmmm I think maybe Richard read xenophobia into my comments which wasn’t at all intended – though I agree it covered all sorts – legal immigrants, illegal immigrants, asylum seekers and welfare vs workers. For the record I don’t approve of the Arizona statute. I see the sense in keeping policing and immigration separate. Otherwise immigrants won’t trust the police.

Anyway Garo..
1. Yes – immigrants = initiative = generally good citizens (as I said which I have personally witnessed) (and my children in school have noted too).
2. Yes- outrageous how we treat asylum seekers – ban them from working and complaining that they are on welfare. It’s not just hypocritical; it’s also cruel.
3. A final point – the terms “non-nationals” bugs me. Everyone has a nationality. We mean non-Irish….(and even then that seems mean – being a NON).

But I think in terms of demographics the key point is this: with the population increasing it’s probably likely that that is not just a matter of lower than expected emigration, but also higher than expected immigration. This is still a good country and people want to move here. It IS good news…once we manage it properly and minimising resentment…

@ The Dork of Cork

“If we had control over our borders I would advocate a closing of borders outside of our most strategically powerful neighbours.” I totally agree.

This is what happened to those that voted for Labour in UK and one would have to wonder if a similar ‘strategy’ prevailed here under FF driven by Bertie and his peers.

@Sarah: thank you thank you thank you! For speaking up about that stupid nonsensical term “non nationals” that some people here – RTE included – love to use. It bugs the he’ll out of me and I am so happy to find someone who shares my distaste for it! Almost as bad as the American term “alien”.

@hogan: bit harsh there mate! Fedigan clearly means France by here. Notice the accent in coherent. I think your post was a bit OTT and quite uncharacteristic of you.

You’ll find OTT is my defining characteristic; that and howling at the moon.

Yes it has been a deliberate policey since the 60s – multiculturalism might work if there was a dramatic increase in energy density but we have had the reverse recently.
My belief is that the nation state is a artifical construct begun on this Island with the arrival of Cromwell & the backing of Dutch money but this cultural construct is so embedded in Europe now the destruction of this idea will morph into dark age chaos as it is already doing.
The local CB here must be questioning the wisdom of the collective CB hive mind in Frankfurt or maybe not but with declining energy densitys the European project is now spreading itself very thinly now.
To my mind the chain of command must be shortened again to make less productive endeavours more efficient again buts thats just my take.
Maybe those guys inhabit a different sociological dimension.
The reversion to simpler collective times will perhaps come from RTE first – if they start showing this again at closing time we will all know that we are going back.
I have to say I was always fond of its Pagan symbology.
I would like to know who sanctioned its removal ?

@ Sean

One of the great things about this board is that people are generally not ideological or deliberately destructive. In my experience, it’s a place for thinking, and listening. I don’t know if Brendan Walsh imagined that the thread would evolve the way it has, but that’s the beauty of the blog.

Politics can be very tough, but it’s better than war. Your concerns are real and understandable, and you are not the only one who has them. As Sarah says:

‘I do think there is a larger socio-political problem that liberal governments don’t take the grievances of the working and welfare dependent classes seriously’


‘We have human rights obligations, we have labour market needs and we have global migration which we Irish have leveraged very well for our own needs. But all those things create problems for struggling lower working classes. I don’t see their problems being fairly covered by mainstream media and that in itself could exacerbate the problem. Most conflict is solved by simply acknowledging the problem’

It’s all too easy to misunderstand each other and to be misunderstood. I recall the survey of problems which was done in the block of flats. Most people blamed the problems on ‘the neighbours’. We all know enough to know that colour of skin shouldn’t matter but, sadly, it often does. That’s a measure of how much work has to be done to make our society fair and productive.

It’s a big wide world out there. Richard Fedigan is one of a number of posters who knows what it means to emigrate. As you will see if you keep blogging, we are all the richer for these enlightened contributions.

@Sarah Carey

Yes, Sarah, I did indeed read xenophobia into your ” covering all sorts” – your words, comments which I believe you when you say you didn’t intend.

May I suggest that it was not clear at all from your original support of the nice Arizona sheriff that you really believe in “keeping policing and immigration separate”.

This is, of course, why the matter is considered serious enough ( not only by “nutters” and “ideological extremists” like myself apparently) to be on the agenda of the US Supreme Court. That is, to DECIDE whether statutes such that of Arizona are indeed “legal and ethical” and a valid basis for “deportation zeal”. Or not! Apparently, the 8 “nutters” on the US Supreme Court are not yet sure!

Here in France, ( to answer your “where” question) xenophobia brought the country, back in 2002, to within a whisker of a National Front Presidency. And the charming Marine Le Pen is close to sealing the fate of Monsieur Sarkozy in just a few months because he hasn’t adopted enough of her xenophobic policies to please the the non-extremist French voter- in- the-street.

I repeat that I welcome your raising the issue of immigration ( along with its corrolary emigration, in the context of demographics) other than as a simplistic challenge to Irish “welfare” budgets.

Irish emigrants and their families, in some cases before they became or become productive contributors to the economies of Britain, the US, Australia et al are , or are perceived to be “welfare cases” before they become Presidents or owners of thriving companies in their host countries.

We should be very careful about our use of of “WE” ( see the Dork’s point about the nation state as an “artificial construct” – we are all immigrants – originally from Africa) as the “WE” wielding the concept can be very prejudicial, especially in these nationalistic and protectionist times, to “US”.

Can we get back to talking about booze and recession causing more sexual activity? This thread is starting to become a bit dull.

@Paul Quigley

I had meant to say thanks for your “moderation” but would add an (important) modifier to your gallant characterisation of me as “one of a number of posters who knows what it means to emigrate”.

I am far from alone among Irish “emigrants” in being an individual who CHOSE to leave Ireland to take up a well-paid ( from the outset) position(s) abroad where I subsequently employed other Irish people ( but also people from from my “host” and other countries, contributed much more in taxes and from “exports” from and to those hosts than I extracted, always considered Ireland as one among other places I might live and work but CHOSE not to for various reasons at various times. ( Not a poor emigrant longing to get back “home” in other words.)

I am “integrated” in France through language marriage, taxes paid, investments, residences ( even an equivalent of an OBE from La République!) but remain an Irish and European ( and world!) citizen without feeling the need or desire to be “assimilated” into “French” notions (ideologies!) like Gaullisme, “l’Exception Française”, “la patimoine nationale”, “solidarité”, sécularisme”, “christian heritage, ( or other such bull-shit slogans), or co-leadership of “Europe” ( with our German partners”, of course) and on and on and on.

France is not a happy camper these days and its future is distinctly iffy at least partially because its politicians and “elites” spinning of the above throw-backs and fantasies.

Since this thread ( after veering into near xenophobia) does not appear to seriously addressing highly pressing global or Irish demographic issues ( including Sarah Carey’s somewhat condescending “struggling lower classes” – a spot of Dickens anyone?) perhaps PR guy is right and you should get back to sex and booze! Thanks again, though.

One of the things that this apparently cheerful demographic rests on is a boom in babies of immigrant origins.

Yet at the same time we see figures which suggest immigrants are returning to their home country on a large scale.

So will this demographic boom even remain in Ireland. Its suggested that we should plan for this but in reality we dont even know if they will remain. Its typical for commentators to assume, maybe too quickly, that immigrants are the new Irish. (As an immigrant in continental europe I can confirm how flawed that assumption is).

The upshot of this is that we have a supposedly positive demographic boom that may not even remain in the state because its heavily based on the immigrant component of the states population. A cohort of the population for which there has never been a plan on how many are required, how they should integrate.

When a baby boom is based on transient communities who arrived to build houses developed on credit and to work in shops living off credit and resturants relying on boom time spending its hard to see where the thought into all of this has gone.

It would appear that as per every other european state national economic policy is determined not by economic or social concerns but by some concept of morality.

And the unique Irish twist is that we are told frequently “didnt we travel ourselves!”

So we are to base our economic and social policies on what happened in other countries over a period of a century.

@ Sarah,

Sarah you note that provided that we manage resentment then this problem will be okay.

I have lived many years now in continental europe and seen than resentment was not the first reaction to immigration – but rather questions of scale.

Those who asked the questions were labelled racists and fascists. It was almost perverse to see how concerns people had about the rate of immigration were labelled as being racist. So effectively you had a situation where anyone who thought the level was too high was racists and anyone who thought that at some point there indeed was an upper limit was considered a racist as well.

The upshot was no discussion about immigration ever. In the country I live thats when the resentment started and now anti-immigrant sentiment is booming.

And by the way in a recent poll here the group most against futher immigration were the Turkish segment of society even though they represent a large segment of the immigrant population here.

Immigration is a social/economic policy issue. It should be discussed and people should be allowed to disagree with the scale and also the multi-cultural model which has failed in nearly every european state. Yet we can neither talk about it or state that assimilation should be the basic tenet of our policy.

The term non national referred to by some posters in a negative light is a legal definition existing in current operable Irish legislation.
The people you voted for inserted that wording.
The same goes for ‘Alien’.It is a legal description.

The title of the thread is ‘Some Cheerful Demographic Statistics’.
Reposing the question put in my last post can someone make a case,be it economic or societal that this expanding population with a large non national component is good for Ireland given our circumstances.
Perhaps someone can show how GNP per head will rise as a positve consequence of such an expanding population.


Thank you for (in your first post) asking a very relevant question coherent with Brendan Walshe’s article launching the thread although I’m not sure that it HAS been established that our “apparently cheerful demographic rests on a boom in babies of immigrant origins”.

Your question seems to be about how “real” or sustainable this demographic boom is with “immigrants returning to their home country on a large scale.” Good one!

If you’re referring to Michael Hennigan’s statistics, I think he would want you to read what he wrote carefully.

My interpretation of his post is that he is making points about the need to be cautious in assuming that a rise in population ( of whomsoever) will inevitably lead to a return to high growth in the medium term.

He then pointed out that our welfare system is structured in such a way, particularly for “families”, as to have had an impact in keeping the number of foreign residents high.

I believe these points are about the core of the thread, i.e. the impact of (positive!) demographics on growth in our economy and NOT about immigration policy (which is, of course a totally legitimate subject in and of itself).

So, Brendan’s topic, particularly his point that “over the longer run it could be argued that our youthful population will bestow a competitive advantage relative to the rest of Europe where the ageing of populations is becoming an acute problem” is very interesting.

How did we get from there to talking about the Turkish population (presumably in Germany) being against further Turkish immigration?

“The term non national referred to by some posters in a negative light is a legal definition existing in current operable Irish legislation.
The people you voted for inserted that wording.
The same goes for ‘Alien’.It is a legal description.”

It is still idiotic!

An excellent essay that is pertinent to this thread:

I’ll quote a relevant bit but the entire essay is worth reading:

“Minorities,” the Indian-American social anthropologist Arjun Appadurai has rightly warned, “are the major site for displacing the anxieties of many states about their own minority or marginality (real or imagined) in a world of a few megastates, of unruly economic flows and compromised sovereignties.”
At the best of times, there were no easy answers to the question of how the ethnically homogenous nation-states of Europe should accommodate Muslim populations. Now the “minority problem” lies hostage to the deteriorating health of European societies.
Europe has been here before. And we should hope that the murderous spree in Norway last week was the work of a certifiably mad loner. But, as extreme-right-wing parties flourish across Western Europe and bigotry goes mainstream, we would also do well to remember the novelist Joseph Roth’s words at a dark time — 1937 — in Europe: “Centuries of civilization are no guarantee that a European people, by some ghastly curse of fate, will not revert to barbarism.”


An expanding population (regardless of its ethnic composition) is good for Ireland if it reduces the per capita debt burden. If immigrants return home because they can’t find work here, we’ll be left with a smaller workforce to pay off our debts. That means higher taxes on a shrinking economy and a downward spiral into eventual default.

@Kevin Donoghue

..”If immigrants return home because they can’t find work here, we’ll be left with a smaller workforce to pay off our debts. ”..

I take your point.However where are the statistics that show the increase in productivity resulting from immigrant labour?
What were the totals of tax paid against benefits received?
If we had these figures (and I cant find them) then a judgement such as yours could be deemed valid or not.

What we do know as fact is that with a rapidly expanding population our GNP is falling resulting in a lower GNP per head.

Again the central question remains unanswered which is how is an expanding population is going to increase our GNP per head given our circumstances.

@Sean, that’s not the central question AFAIAC; per capita GNP has no relevance that I can see.


“One of the things that this apparently cheerful demographic rests on is a boom in babies of immigrant origins.”

Just to clarify this: On my Newstalk show last week the ever-interesting Pete Lunn was able to be specific on this: It’s not that immigrants have more babies than natives (someone earlier referred to “highly fertile immigrants”.) They have the same number of children has Irish women – It’s just that as the number of immigrants in the population rises so the number of immigrant children as a a proportion of the total increases too…

btw, Protestants have bigger families than Catholics. There’s a generational turn around! More cheer!

@ Sarah Carey

Thanks for the “clarification” on the “boom in babies” behind the cheerful demographic.

So, Mr. Lunn has informed you that immigrants are so “assimilated” that they have the same number of children as Irish women.

Can we therefore conclude that if we want more babies, we can get them from Irish women OR immigrants?

Now all we have to do is decide if we want more babies. And that would depend on whether more babies mean more growth. Or less spending. Or more productivity Or jobs.

In other words, is cheerful demographics ( regardless of whether the babies are “Irish” or not) a good (economic) thing for Ireland?

Which is back where we started. Nothing to do with immigration after all!

Most of this absurd debate is based on the premise that we can do anything.

Let me explain a simple economic maxim – when capital is free to move anywhere on Earth Labour and their dependents will soon follow

Our best albeit limited solution to this given the lack of Independent thought, judgement & execution in this country is to go back to the union in some form with some sort of limited fiscal powers leaving Britain to control areas such as monetory control & defence and to hope the UK breaks in some way from the European Frankestein experiment given that its banks are so exposed to this monster whether outside the currency or not.

Cheers Richard,

by the way the point about the Turkish community being the ones most against immigration (from any quarter) was with the intent of neutralising the rather tiresome reaction whereby anyone who has concerns with immigration is lumped in with the far right. I though pointing out that by that same token then the furthest right in this instance would be turkish immigrants which kinda makes a nonsense of the attempt o condemn people who want a debate on immigration.


I’ll duly listen.

Interesting to see that the birth rate is rising amongst protestant denom.

Across Europe there is a big debate about birth rates yet take Germany. It has a horrendously ow birth rate amongst native germans. The rather simplistic approach has been to go well they just dont have kids so we need immigrants,. One of the reasons Germans didnt have kids is because they had poor childcare facilities. Having a kid was to remove any chance of working. Now the Germans are finally improving their childcare faciliites so maybe German women will feel they can have kids and a career.

This ties in with another idea that I have come across now several times in europe – that using immigrants as children factory is to accept that the curent flawed social model which disincentivises having kids remains unchanged simply because you can always kick the can down the road by getting more high birth rate immigrants (difference exists in Germany).

I am approaching this discussion from a different view point as I live in central europe. But these are live, main stream issues and being talked openly about.

@Richard again,

I think you are missing the point if you want to remove the topic of immigration from the demographics debate. Its a difficult topic and prone to extreme rhetoric, on all sides, but ignoring it as a component didnt work in europe and wont work in Ireland.

As I noted earlier many Irish people arrogantly assume that immigrants are new Irish – of course nobody asked the immigrants. Equating Irish babies with the babies of immigrants will not be a good economic thing for Ireland if its based on the multi-cultural model rather than assimilation. Thats economic because the failure of multi-culturalism is having a huge impact across europe socially.

Again I ask for some understanding because I am approaching this discussion as someone who reads and hears day in day out people talking about failed immigration policy. I dont think Ireland will proceed any differntly which saddens me because we’ll end up with the same far right loons as here.


“In other words, is cheerful demographics ( regardless of whether the babies are “Irish” or not) a good (economic) thing for Ireland?”


@kevin Donoghue,

”…that’s not the central question AFAIAC; per capita GNP has no relevance that I can see.”

Per capita GNP is an inicator of growing wealth (leaving aside distribution effects).
This means more can be spent per head of population on social infrastructure etc.

Our GNP per head is declining and the fact the recent census revealed 100,000 more people here than thought means either taxing us more to maintain existing services,making the existing services ultra efficient or accepting a significant lowering of services available.

@sarah Carey,

“In other words, is cheerful demographics ( regardless of whether the babies are “Irish” or not) a good (economic) thing for Ireland?”


Just saying yes does nt necessarily make it so.Can you elaborate why it is a good thing economically for Ireland given our circumstances?

Well it solves the pension crisis for starters, creates a market for products and services and provides us with labour.
For the minute it does mean those children require education, but that’s temporary.
It’s a long term bonus.


A larger working population reduces the debt burden. Of course it’s true that one highly-productive worker can contribute as much on that score as several unskilled workers. But it’s not as if we’re short of space, so there is no sensible reason to turn away the unskilled. Basically anyone who contributes to GDP is improving the debt:GDP ratio, whether they do it by cleaning windows or writing software. I should qualify that statement to exclude reckless bankers and suchlike, but hopefully caveats of that sort can be taken as read.

@Sarah Carey,

”Well it solves the pension crisis for starters, creates a market for products and services and provides us with labour.”

Well you could apply that reasoning to Ethiopia or any other third world country where expanding populations create markets for products and services and obviously labour.
You have nt explained though how this expanding population is going to produce the wealth necessary to fund those pensions.

Its akin (in my opinion) to the logic that our excessive borrowing during the boom made us wealthy (or at least the gullible felt they were wealthy) even though our productivity was in rapid decline during that period.

@Kevin O Donoghue

”A larger working population reduces the debt burden.”

Not necessarily so and certainly doubtful in the Irish case as noone so far has produced evidence to confirm your assertion.
What is true is that GNP per head has been declining for several years now and our real debt burden has consequently increased.


If you want evidence that an increase in GDP reduces the debt:GDP ratio I can’t help you. Any ratio falls when the denominator increases and the numerator stays the same. If you can doubt that you can go one better than Descartes. Are you just fooling, or do you have a model of some sort in which an increase in GDP generates a bigger increase in debt? Such a model is logically possible of course, but you’d better spell it out if you want me to believe it has real-world implications.

Kevin O Donoghue.

You made the claim ..”A larger working population reduces the debt burden.”

I stated GNP has been in decline for years now and consequently our real debt burden has increased.
I used GNP not GDP.
I did not make any claim about an increase in GDP ratio .

What’s going to happen is, a US default or the alternative, no default with an increase in the debt ceiling followed by massive austerity programs. This is going to ratchet up the sovereign debt crisis and Irelands pension brigade is going to take an almighty hammering in due course and it will not stop at pensions salaries are going to have to be slashed. Germany are not buying the transfer union so I would like to hear what the plan is to avoid social unrest and a chaotic default on our debt in September.

The growing population mentioned above from outside Ireland are going to play a welcome part in exposing the conundrum of how one pays completely unsustainable levels of salary and pensions under Croke Park. In reality the state is broke and getting even “more broker”. Even without the present turmoil, our sovereign debt is going to hit 200bn by end of 2013 and that is an IMF benign scenario which does not include the 31.7 bn of bonds issued by an agency that wants to get involved in subprime mortgage business that wants to expand its remit at every available opportunity. NAMA has morphed into the monster I and others predicted from the start and it can only get worse as people try to sell their homes to get out only to discover you are competing against NAMA and their negative equity subprime mortgage loans.

It is laughable, to hear Michael Noonan tell us that Ireland has exceeded the austerity measures set out under the MOU. 20 lashes on the backs of the Irish citizens? Only 20? I’ll beat that, it will be 40 at least.

A positive aspect of young Irish people is that they generally view the origin of people and their sexual orientation as non-issues.

The experience of my two children, now adults, who were born in the Philippines of ethnic Malay origin, was that they very rarely experienced racially-based negativity in Ireland when growing up.

I look at migration in the broader context of globalisation and I do believe that it’s foolish to ignore factors that can give rise to extremism.

In the past year in the UK, most of the 400,000 new jobs were given to migrants; FTSE 100 bosses saw their earnings rise 32% while real earnings in many sectors fell again.

Stagnant multi-decade earnings and huge gains for both big bosses and owners of capital are more striking in the US and we can observe the past impact of measures in the Congress to help people on low earnings to buy houses while the impact of the Tea Party is self evident.

In Ireland ‘nutters’ who see default as a positive option are still on the margins but in the US, they have almost captured one of the main parties.

Barry Goldwater, Republican presidential candidate, said in 1964: “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”

One man’s meat is another man’s poison but it’s foolish to believe for example that trends in the UK can go on without consequence unless high growth returns to the developed countries.

Getting a pint of Guinness yesterday in Cork from a nice guy from Krakow (he even put a shamrock logo on the head as they do sometimes in Kuala Lumpur!) does not matter but overall the society of ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ can also been seen as emerging in Ireland.

The temps have been dumped in places like Ireland and Spain and for example in Ireland, directors of housing across the country retain their guaranteed posts even though there is no work to do.

More than one-third of Japan’s workforce are temps with limited rights and earning less than the Irish minimum wage.

In Ireland only a relatively small number in future can aspire to high earning jobs in for example the high tech sector and there are limits to the potential in FDI.

Remember the fairytale Innovation Taskforce report – – up to 235,000 new jobs by 2020?

Death rates less than one percent, birth rate almost two percent, equals impending doom. Part of the Chinese miracle was the one child policy. It is resources per person that matters. Higher births is the start of another bubble.

@ Michael Hennigan

Many thanks and congratulations on putting your extremely valid earlier “migrant” comments in an eminently topical demograhic and economic context, the subject of the thread, after all (globalisation, temps, new jobs, “dumping” of temps, guaranteed ( public service!) posts, FACTORS that give rise to extremism and, as you put it “overall the society of “ins and outs” can be seen emerging in Ireland”.)

It is great that your “multicultual” sons did not by and large experience racially-based negativity when growing up in Ireland. I’m not sure if they consider themselves “assimilated” or “integrated” into whatever. I don’t care and I wouldn’t expect the answer to the question, if there is one, to be an indicator of what they think, how they behave, or how they vote, for example. Your sons grew up in Ireland in the past and the future is the issue now.

As recently as this morning on French radio, the Finance Minister (Christine Lagarde’s replacement) commented on a polémique here about the number of practicing Muslims in France, which he estimated at somewhere between 3 and ten million, by acknowledging the BAN on collecting official figures ( on people’s religious beliefs) because it would not be “républicaine”!

Here, one really is “in” or “out” even down to estimating the numbers.

I guess we’re nowhere near to getting consensus on Brendan Walsh’s original thread question about whether “cheerful” demographics is a good or bad (economic ) thing for Ireland!

@jagdip singh

If you listen very very carefully, you might just be able to hear a thunderous JtO somewhere hammering out a comment on his computer. You’d better look out!

JTO again:

I have been away for a long weekend, and am only seeing this thread now.

Actually, I have never disputed that there was probably some net emigration in the past 2 years. My argument with ESRI was that they were greatly exaggerating it (NET outflow of 180k between April 2008 and April 2011). I was of the opinion that the much lower CSO estimates (NET outflow of 75k between April 2008 and April 2011) were much closer to the mark than ESRI’s.
What the census revealed was that even the much lower CSO estimates were too pessimistic. We won’t know exactly until the CSO figures for individual years are out, but the census revelation that the CSO estimates were too pessimistic by an annual average of 20k strongly indicates that the NET outflow between April 2008 and April 2011 was much lower than 75k. But, I will be very surprised if the annual revisions resulting from the census are sufficient to produce an actual NET inflow in the past couple of years.

One possible spin-off from the population figures, that the census revealed, was the excellent performances of Donegal and Mayo at Croke Park over the weekend. As I pointed out a couple of weeks ago, one of most uncommented-on features of the census was the fact that, since 1996 the population of the western and north-western counties has been, for the first time ever, growing more rapidly than that of the eastern counties.

@Professor Brendan Walsh

I have been away for a long weekend, and am only seeing your thread now.

This is really top class analysis. Congratulations!

I just wonder why the IT rarely publishes anything of this nature. Do they never ask you to write for them now?

Just one point: is it not the case that the fall in alcohol consumption began before the recession and that per capital alcohol consumption peaked around 2001? I must admit I haven’t checked the figures recently, but I remember looking at them around 2005/06 and the trend was allready downwards then.

The recession has proved almost all of the pre-recession theories of the social alarmists wrong. In addition to those Professor Walsh lists, I would add the total absence of civil disorder, the total absence of urbal racial warfare, and the total absence of any rise in support for anti-immigrant parties. The latter is in marked contrast to the highly-secularised northern European countries, as seen tragically in Norway just a week ago. I can imagine the reaction if some nut from Dublin had gone to the Phoenix Park and calmly murdered close to a hundred people because he considered them to be insufficiently opposed to immigration into Ireland, and the Gardai had taken an hour and a half to get there. In retrospect, it looks increasingly like the biggest outbreak of civil disorder to occur in Ireland during the recession will turn out to have been at the 2010 Leinster final, when the referee gave Meath a goal that should never have been and, in the ensuing uproar, a handful of people were arrested. But, that was it, for our would-be prophesiers of massive civil disorder.

@Michael Hennigan

I see that your favourite country, Israel, is in turmoil.

150,000 take to the streets in protest at high inflation

@Professor Brendan Walsh

Disentangling the contributions of better lifestyles, improved housing conditions and progress in health care to these trends is a challenging research agenda.

JTO again:

This is undoubtedly true.

However, may I draw your attention to the existence of the artificial partition.

One of the few advantages of the artificial partition, probably not foreseen by Lloyd George and Michael Collins at the time, is that it could be a valuable aid towards the sort of health research that you have in mind.

On this small island, there are two political jurisdictions and two different health service models. As far as I am aware, climate, lifestyle, diet, alcohol and tobacco consumption are fairly similar in both. Yet, their performances in reducing mortality in the last decade and a half are very different. This ought to be able to help health researchers identify the factors behind the different rates of mortality reduction in the two jurisdictions, and thus facilitate the introduction of policies that enable the worse-performing one to catch up on the better-performing one. Approximately one thousand lives could be saved annually by doing this.

To this end, I have computed the mortality rates for 10 age-groups in both R. Ireland and N. Ireland in 1997 and 2008 (latest year for which figures are available for both). In addition, I have added the 2010 figures for R. Ireland (not available yet in N. Ireland).

mortality rate = number of deaths per 100, 000 population:

age-group 0-4:

1997: R. Ire: 152.400 , N. Ire: 133,209
2008: R. Ire: 102.470 , N. Ire: 121.515
2010: R. Ire: 91.577

age-group 5-14:

1997: R. Ire: 15.279 , N. Ire: 15.808
2008: R. Ire: 11.636 , N. Ire: 15.643
2010: R. Ire: 9.088

age-group 15-24:

1997: R. Ire: 74.086 , N. Ire: 59.107
2008: R. Ire: 51.303 , N. Ire: 65.521
2010: R. Ire: 47.359

age-group 25-34:

1997: R. Ire: 80.800 , N. Ire: 64.060
2008: R. Ire: 61.128 , N. Ire: 75.209
2010: R. Ire: 57.892

age-group 35-44:

1997: R. Ire: 136.111 , N. Ire: 115.893
2008: R. Ire: 117.584 , N. Ire: 143.757
2010: R. Ire: 104.621

age-group 45-54:

1997: R. Ire: 347.183 , N. Ire: 353.142
2008: R. Ire: 272.962 , N. Ire: 322.116
2010: R. Ire: 247.747

age-group 55-64:

1997: R. Ire: 1,015.519 , N. Ire: 1,008.396
2008: R. Ire: 684.833 , N. Ire: 739.991
2010: R. Ire: 612.511

age-group 65-74:

1997: R. Ire: 2,953.158 , N. Ire: 2,736.790
2008: R. Ire: 1,839.021 , N. Ire: 1,920.319
2010: R. Ire: 1,641.547

age-group 75-84:

1997: R. Ire: 7,829.545 , N. Ire: 6,815.003
2008: R. Ire: 5,504.408 , N. Ire: 5,410.765
2010: R. Ire: 4,999.388

age-group 85 plus:

1997: R. Ire: 18,975.409 , N. Ire: 16,296.660
2008: R. Ire: 15,360.902 , N. Ire: 16,717.450
2010: R. Ire: 14,232.358

As the figures show:

(1) Between 1997 and 2008, the mortality rate fell far more in R. Ireland than in N. Ireland for EVERY SINGLE ONE of the 10 age-groups. For younger age-groups (5-44) mortality rates actually rose in N. Ireland between 1997 and 2008, while falling dramatically in R. Ireland. This is a scandal.

(2) In 1997, the mortality rate was higher in R. Ireland in 8 of the 10 age-groups (the exceptions being 5-14 and 45-54, but only slightly lower in R. Ireland in those two) – but, by 2008, it was higher in R. Ireland in only 1 of the 10 age-groups (the exception being 75-84, but only slightly higher in R. Ireland in that one). But, even in this one, it looks almost certain that the mortality rate in R. Ireland had gone below that in N. Ireland by 2010.

Note that, following the census, the figures for R. Ireland will actually have to be revised down, thereby increasing the gap with N. Ireland that the above figures demonstrate. This is because, while the numbers of deaths are unaffected by the census, the base population figures, against which the mortality rates are computed, will have to be revised up.

This is a scandalous situation. People living in N. Ireland are having, not just to put up with the artificial partition, but are literally dying on account of it. I am sure that, if the figures had been reversed, there would be an almighty stink made about it in the Dublin 4 media. The Irish Times health section would be on overdrive. But, with the figures as shown above, they are largely ignored in the Dublin 4 media. This is largely because, as perceived by the Dublin 4 media, the R. Ireland has an ideologically-incorrect health service, while N. Ireland has an ideologicaly-correct one, By that I mean that the N. Ireland health service is almost entirely state-run and secularised, while the R. Ireland health service allows much more private involvement as well as involvement by the Churches, both of which are anathema to almost all the Dublin 4 media. Hence, the Dublin 4 media will never draw attention to the fact that it is the ideologically-incorrect one that is currently delivering far better results.

If Professor Walsh is reading this, perhaps he would use any contacts he has with health researchers in N. Ireland to have some research done as to why N. Ireland is lagging so far behind R. Ireland in relation to reduction in mortality rates, with a view to introducing policies that eliminate the differences shown in the above figures. I calculate that, if current mortality rates in N. Ireland could be reduced to current mortality rates in R. Ireland, there would be approximately 1,000 fewer deaths annually in N. Ireland. So, it is not a trivial matter.

@Sara Carey

Finally a word on Norway.

A few months ago, I got chatting to a Norwegian couple on holiday. I asked “So what’s the story? We keep hearing about the Scandinavian public service paradise. Does it work in real life?”

They hesitated and said cracks were beginning to appear. The deal is – you pay high taxes, you get a great welfare net and public services.

JTO again:

If you see them again, perhaps ask them, if taking the Norwegian police some 90 minutes to get to the scene of the recent shootings (a mere 20 miles form the centre of Oslo), constitutes a ‘great public service’.

‘… total absence of of any rise in support for anti-immigrant parties. The latter is in marked contrast to the highly-secularised northern European countries. Indeed.

Welcome back to a thread that I think was launched for your delectation although we didn’t establish if the ‘positive’ numbers were (economically) good or bad and veered off into whether immigration was good or bad. A very interesting and pertinent subject in itself. ( Although there was no mention in the comments on English, Scottish, Dutch, French, Spanish immigration ( white, non-communist) in the past or in the future.

In some of the “highly-secularised” countries you refer to, secularism is itself becoming an ideology as it approximates to a state “religion”, the orthodox default position for those contending that multiculturalism has failed ( if it has actually been tried in Europe!)

The leaders of these countries, in the same way as they pander to popular anti-peripherals sentiment ( “it is not ‘German’ to run deficits” for example) are also backing themselves, for electoral reasons into extreme positions like the sentiment in France that it is now virtually compulsory to be “secular” to be “French”

This, of course, is the opposite of the separation of church and state but pluralist positioning of the US, albeit with a high proprtion of (Christian) “believers” and a less numerous but powerful “Jewish”/pro-Israel lobby.

All very interesting meat for a debate but precious little to do with this thread which, I guess is at its end.


“What the census revealed was that even the much lower CSO estimates were too pessimistic. ”

That is absolutely true with respect to the annual migration figures estimated by the CSO in the five individual years 2006,7,8,9,10 to April 2011. However given the sample approach adopted by the CSO in the Quarterly National Household Survey – and unless I am missing something – we still don’t know when the CSO got its estimates wrong.

You seem to be implying that the CSO got their estimates evenly wrong over each of the five years. But theoretially the estimates might have been under in the early years and spot on in the later years (or vice versa) – so the ESRI estimates for 2009-2011 might still be correct. Though that would mean the estimates were wrong in 2006-2008.

(and apologies for suggesting you rejected the view that there has been any net emigration in the past three years)


On a separate topic, do I recall correctly you saying that Germany had a population of over 100m in 1939 which would be 20m more than the population today?

I was researching a post on Ireland’s population today and the curiosity of our population today being less than in 1841. I looked at other countries which had disasters, natural and manmade, and Germany it seems had a population of 79.8m in 1939 (approximation of present German borders)

@Gavin Kostick

Now ( since last night) we ( Gavin & I) are in (direct) contact and I’m signalling this only to flag the potential for developing “active networking brand extensions” ( sorry for jargon) of this site.

Which are already being explored by the strategists running it! What do I know?

@jagdip singh

You seem to be implying that the CSO got their estimates evenly wrong over each of the five years.

JTO again:

To my knowledge, I don’t think that I have ever said that. I think I have said a few times that I don’t know the individual breakdown by year.

All I know is that the population was 100k greater in April 2011 than the CSO estimated pre-census, and 200k greater than ESRI estimated pre-census. So, those figures are the amounts by which both over-estimated total net emigration over the 5-year periof April 2006 to April 2011.

I don’t recall ever having said that the error was evenly distributed over each of the 5 years individually. If you can find where I said that, point me to it, but I don’t recall ever saying that. On one of the threads last week (link below), in response to Eamonn Moran, I specifically said that I didn’t know the breakdown by individual year.

The final para of what I wrote last Thursday:

“It means that the total migration figure for the 5-year period, April 2006 to April 2011, will most definitely be revised by 100k. That is, the total inflow minus the total outflow will be revised up by 100k. There is no dispute whatever about that. The census tells us that definitively. But, we won’t know for some time how that 100k will be distributed over each of the 5 individual years from April 2006 to April 2011. It could be 20, 20, 20, 20, 20, OR 40, 40, 20, 0, 0, OR 100, 0, 0, 0, 0, OR 10, 20, 40, 20, 10, OR 10, 10, 10, 20, 50, – in fact, anything, as long as the total adds up to 100.”

So, it is clear that, last Thursday, I was saying that I did not know the breakdown by individual year.

I don’t rule out the possibility of the 100k CSO error being so concentrated in the first 2 years that the CSO pre-census estimates for 2009, 2010 and 2011 turn out to be correct. I don’t think that is the most likely outcome, but it is certainly not impossible That would occur if the distribution of the 100k CSO error was 50, 50, 0, 0, 0.

But, remember, as we discussed before, the ESRI error is 200k, not 100k. For the ESRI pre-census estimates for 2009, 2010 and 2011 to turn out to be correct, the distribution of the 100k CSO error would have to be something like +105, +102, -42, -35, -30. In other words, the CSO would have had to have under-stimated net immigration by a total of 207k in 2007 and 2008, then under-estimated net emigration by a total of 107k in 2009, 2010 and 2011. I think this is very unlikely.

Remember, in my disputations with ESRI before the census, I was merely claiming that the much lower CSO estimates for net emigration in 2009 (7.8k), 2010 (34.5k) and 2011 (approx 34.5k) were more likely to be correct than the ESRI estimates in 2009 (50k), 2010 (70k) and 2011 (60k). I never claimed that there was no net emigration in 2009, 2010 and 2011, merely that there was no basis for believing the ESRI estimates, as the CSO estimates were much lower. It came as a complete surprise to me, as much as to anyone, when the census revealed that the population was 100k higher than even the more optimistic CSO pre-census estimate. But, to repeat, I do not know how that 100k is broken down by individual year, and do not recall ever having said that I did.

@jagdip singh

We still don’t know when the CSO got its estimates wrong.

JTO again:

Yes, I agree. I do not recall ever saying anything different to that.

@jagdip singh

Sorry to be a pain. But I am just checking some of my previous posts. This is what I posted on 27 July in response to your good self:

“@jagdip singh (JTO reply to on 27 July)

I take the point you (jagdip) are making. Until the CSO publishes figures, no one, including myself, has a clue as to how the extra 100,000 persons, revealed by the census, will be distributed over the individual years between 2006 and 2011.”

I can not find any post where I said that I did know or that I thought that the error was evenly distributed over the 5-year period. But, always willing to be corrected, if you can find any post where I did say that.

@jagdip singh

On a separate topic, do I recall correctly you saying that Germany had a population of over 100m in 1939 which would be 20m more than the population today?

I was researching a post on Ireland’s population today and the curiosity of our population today being less than in 1841. I looked at other countries which had disasters, natural and manmade, and Germany it seems had a population of 79.8m in 1939 (approximation of present German borders)

JTO again:

Fair enough, jagdip, I won’t dispute your point. I would never claim to be an expert on the precise population of the Third Reich which, depending on the success or otherwise of the German army at the time, tended to vary more than that of most other countries.

I was responding to someone who posted ‘America is finished’ and who suggested that its place as a global power was being taken by Germany. I was trying to show that this was nonsense by pointing out that, when they went to war in 1941, Germany and the US weren’t that far apart in population (hence Hitler thought he might actually win), but that in 2011 they are massively apart in population and the gap is growing.

Just for clarity, this is what I wrote:

“When Germany declared war on the US in 1941, Hitler actually fancied his chances, because Germany had almost the same population as the US then, just over 100 million.”

“In 2011, it is US 320m and rising fast v Germany 80m and falling.”

“In 50 years, it will be US 500m v Germany 50m.”

I got my estimate of 100m for Germany in 1941 partly from this source:

This gives 87m for Germany in 1939.

But, my reference was not to 1939 but to 1941 (“When Germany declared war on the US in 1941”). By 1941 (it was actually Dec 1941 when Germany declared war on the US), Germany had expanded by a hefty chunk and had annexed Alsace-Lorraine, a lot of Poland, and territory from some of its other conquests between 1939 and 1941. So, 100m was a reasonable estimate for the population of Germany in 1941.

If this was a website to discuss German history, no doubt we could go into it a lot more. However, as the population of the US in 1941 was only around 140m, but 320m today, I think that the main thrust of my (somewhat peripheral to this site) point stands.


Thanks for replying (and indulging, given your previous clarifying comments)

No dispute about Germany’s population being more or less static between 1939 and today, nor the projection that without inward migration, her population will plateau and decline.

And no dispute with the US population either. It is remarkable growth, both for its quantum and for its sustainability.

Shame that Ireland for the first 50 years after independence had a more or less flat population, plagued by one-way emigration.

Again, thanks for clarifying, particularly as this is slightly off-topic,

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