Preliminary Census Results

The CSO have published some preliminary findings from last April’s Census.

The population was measured to be 4.76 million up from 4.59 million in 2011 giving an increase of 170,000 (+3.7%).  The natural increase was just over 198,000 so the estimate of net migration over the five years since the last census is –28,500.  This is the second consecutive occasion where inter-censal population estimates were out by around 100,000.

The housing stock increased from 2,003,914 to 2,022,895, a rise of less than 20,000 over the five years.  On census night just over 1.7 million units were occupied with 45,000 units where the occupants were temporarily absent and there were 60,000 unoccupied holiday or second homes.  There were just under 200,000 “other vacant dwellings” a drop of 30,000 in this category since 2011.  There is a wide variation in vacancy rates by area.

There is plenty of interesting detail available by following the link.

16 replies on “Preliminary Census Results”

Congratulations to the CSO for getting the results out so quickly. And to you for getting them up here so quickly.

When the last UK census was held in 2011 it was over a year before any results at all were published.

So, for the second census in a row the population has turned out be circa 100k higher than was previously thought and net emigration a fraction of what was previously thought (net 6k annual average v 25k-30k previously thought).

Haven’t studied it fully yet, but it looks very much like there was a return to net immigration in the past year or two.

All those figures bandied about in the media for the last half-decade, with claims of 200k, 300k, up to 500k net emigration are now seen to be baloney.

I got it completely wrong myself. That’s Legal asked me a few weeks ago to predict the census. I think I said something along the lines of ‘net emigration will turn out to be less than thought, but not by as much as in the previous census’. I was totally wrong. It was.

The Irish Times daily moan ‘Generation Emigration’ now looks ridiculous.

There is now a good chance that the all-Ireland population will hit 7 million by 2020 and the Republic alone will exceed 5 million by 2020.

Lots of statistics will now have to be revised.

I don’t know how to break this to some people. Have a stiff drink before reading on.

But, Tuesday’s GDP/GNP figures (the ones that are causing so much pain and anguish) will now have to be revised UP.

While the figures for the growth in employment in recent years will have to be revised up dramatically.

Also on the plus side, figures for mortality rates will have to be revised down and figures for life expectancy revised up.

But, there’s a downside too,

The figures explain the housing shortage. The number of new houses built will have to accelerated rapidly.

The problem of under-estimating population growth between census needs to be rectified. That’s twice in a row now the census has shown population growth far higher than previously thought. I’d say the problem is partly cultural in that the media abound with such ludicrous over-estimates of emigration that this may be affecting the CSO’s inter-census population estimates. There was no problem in the six census from 1981 to 2006. In all of these the CSO pre-census estimates proved extremely accurate. The problem has arisen alongside the rise of the ‘doom’ industry in the society at large. The homeless are the ones paying the price for this failure.

First congratulations to the CSO for getting so much data out and so soon. I have over the years perused this kind of data from different countries and nowhere are the outputs as high quality as for Ireland. The census costs about €50m every 5 years and is both necessary and extremely efficiently spent by the CSO.

However……………the methodology for intra-censal population estimates clearly needs a complete overhaul. For the second time in a row the CSO have significantly underestimated the number of people living in the state. Obviously estimation is hard when you have huge gross migration flows and poor administrative data sources. But this kind of error is now systematic and should not be repeated for a third time.

Otherwise I would completely second JTO. The media stories about families of emigrants and dwindling GAA teams are largely nonsense. ONE local authority area (Donegal) suffered an appreciable decline in population. Even Roscommon and Leitrim – counties frequently featured as evidence of the ‘death’ of rural Ireland – have more people living in them than 5 years ago.

As JTO points out, the narrative on migration was all wrong, as indeed were official estimates; the CSO had thought net emigration was 100k over the four years to April 2015 but we are now told that the figure over the full 5 years since 2011 must have only been 28k given the natural rise in the population. They will probably revise immigration estimates up and indeed net immigration may well have already resumed.
There is always a tendency to fight the last war and we can now see more clearly that Ireland has huge capacity constraints, notably in Dublin, from housing and commercial property through to Education, Health, and more. For example, the price of a hotel room in June was up an annual 15% according to todays CPI. No doubt somebody will suggest controls on that as well as rents.

Even without considering distributional aspect of income, the GNP per capita, excluding the pacific airborne fleet,is still just below that of 10 years ago.

Taking figures for 2006, 2011, and 2016 population and GNP for 2005, 2010, and 2015 (adjusted to 2014+5%, ergo excluding the pacific airborne fleet), we get the following. [As census is taken early in following year the prior year GNP is a better relative comparator.]

2005: GNP 142 BN , Population 3917203, GNP per person 36250
2010: GNP 139 BN , Population 4588252, GNP per person 30295
2015 GNP 169 BN* , Population 4757976, GNP per person 35470. [*5% increase on 2014]

The ‘country’ is certainly recovering rapidly, even on more realistic GNP figures, but still not back to where it was 10 years ago, and I suspect with income skewed much more heavily towards the better off; and housing supply back to levels not witnessed in the worst of the 1980s recession.

Great news! It’s very likely that we’re now back to net inward migration. The doom porn magazine that is the Irish Times will no doubt apologise for putting out an image of a country emptying out, with enough housing to last a 200 years and suggesting we’re inferior to progressive utopia’s like Doha!

There’s a real risk of the economy over heating in the years ahead if/when property construction gets back to adequate levels. Especially considering the ever growing catch up required. Let’s hope we don’t go down the road throwing up 25,000 units of crap a year.

Incidentally, Brexit may actually help us! By taking some heat out of the economy in the years ahead. We seem to be heading for full employment by the end of 2017.

Tip of the hat to JTO, he might not have got this one right but he’s turning out to be the closest thing the Irish Economy has to a wise sage.

Re doom porn. Why are USD 12 tn in global sovs carrying a negative yield ? Does the market just need a dose of positive thinking ?
Would this help ?

JtO for President!

What is wrong with Irish people that we seem to wallow in bad news and actively seek it out? In the office canteen this week I mentioned that the census showed that population is growing and immediately one woman shouted out that Donegal’s population had decreased (this must have been a headline on some news bulletin).

I think it was the writer John Banville who coined the term ‘MOPE’ (Most Oppressed People Ever) to derogatively describe those who might talk of Ireland’s history of colonisation, famine, emigration and Britain’s poor record of governing Ireland over the centuries. We now have the polar opposite: ‘MACE’ (Most Awful Country Ever) where the media, academics and other public figures desperately seek out anything to show that Ireland is a ‘Failed State’ (to use Sarah Carey’s term) or the worst place ever to be a woman/a child/a student/an elderly person/hospital patient and so on. We have had terrific news this week. What ultimately could be a greater measure of a country’s success other than people are living longer and the population is growing? Those two factors combined have to point to us doing something right.

This whole idea of mass emigration is an example of ‘truthiness’ i.e. it appears to be right and people accept it as being a fact because each one of us probably knows or heard of someone who had emigrated. I’ve been reading all the newspapers online this week and I haven’t seen any commentator write positively of the census returns. Equally, our completely transparent 12.5% tax rate is good for the economy and leads to more tax being paid by multinationals on a global scale but, for some, we are MACE for even allowing multinationals set foot in the country at all. On a quick count SEVENTEEN members of my immediate family (my siblings, their children and grandchildren) depend for their livelihood on either direct employment in multinationals or the supply of goods and services to multinationals. I hope this blog is being read abroad because JtO is doing better marketing for the country than the IDA or Minister Noonan could hope to aspire to. I loved his statement that Ireland is the only country in the world where we would shoot the messenger for bringing good news.

It is necessary to have critical commentary on the GDP figures and other aspects of the Irish economy as we don’t want to create an ‘echo chamber’ or have groupthink. But the unrelenting negativity of posters such as Michael Hennigan, Aidan Regan (whoever he is), Colm McCarthy (who wanted Terminal 2 mothballed for example) et al makes me wonder what sort of personal lives they lead. What is wrong with someone who would always seek out the bad news in every economic and social statistic? Any psychiatrists out there who might explain this?

The notion that Ireland is the only country where begrudgery exists is a very Irish Independent reading Dublin taxi driver conceit. Very JtO style. Lithuanians are far worse. Paraguayans mix it with a sense of fatalism that makes Mayo football look like the Miss World competition.

A better measure of success is life expectancy differential by social class which is a superior indicator of trauma and institutional capture. .

I feel very bad about Donegal, our neighbouring county and where I will have a holiday home when I eventually retire. Not sure why it fared so much worse than, say, Cavan, which showed a large population increase. On the other hand, being selfish for a moment, Donegal are Tyrone’s opponent’s in tomorrow’s Ulster final, so it helps us if they have fewer to choose from. Its an ill-wind …

As for ‘what sort of personal lives’ they lead, some people have political motivations that necessitate a never-ending round of gloomy predictions, while others are not politically-motivated but are just born-pessimists. If you bumped into them in the street this warm sunny July morning, they’d be carrying heavy coats and boots in their bag, as they expected heavy snowfall this afternoon. Not sure which group the people you mention belong to.

If things are so good, can we have some money back?
Such as:
The increase in pension age from 65 to 66 (now), 67 in 2021, and 68 in 2028; The highest pension age in Europe.
Can we get membership of occupational pension scheme rate above 40%, the other 60% currently having to retire into the poverty of state support only?
Can the State end the practice of Yellow pack hiring, brought in to save the State from what seems to have been an imaginary crisis.
Can we manage to provide housing for all our citizens, a feat we managed in the 1980s, when as Roddy Doyle said, we hadn’t a seat to our trousers?

As for the population going up, of course it is going up. How could it not do otherwise given the current age profile as outlined in the chart in the attached link, unless hit by the Zika virus or the plague?

The news is good, particularly for some, maybe even great. But is it payback time yet?

The simple truth is that you want a national buy-in to the narrative that Ireland is booming, the ‘booming’ will have to be reflected nationally.
So rises all round for everybody, and don’t settle for less than 26.3%.
The ship is on full steam ahead, again.


We will know the state is really booming rather than in economic Wonderbra mode when AIB is sold. And for that to happen the US needs to be at exit velocity. Which will happen when the Shannon is drained.
At 4 minutes in Friedman declares “as always when there is more money prices go up”
That arrogance and certainty got Reagan and Thatcher elected. And it is what drives Fed policy.

Which is now incoherent
Because QE which is money printing on a scale never seen before turns out to create deflation . I miss Tull McAdoo.

Nobody can credibly predict the Irish population 5 years out. If the US economy collapses in the meantime the pacific airborne fleet may have to be retired due to demand suffering from a short illness. No flowers please.

We are living in exceptionally fragile times.

I totally agree with DanMcLaughlin and others about capacity constraints. Its the most serious problem likely to face Ireland in the next few years. However, capacity isn’t a fixed thing, but can be increased. For that you need a strong construction sector to build up the infrastructure. Bertie Ahern realised this and launched the National Development Plan in 1997, which transformed Ireland’s road network, airports, ports and built enough houses to house a population that increased by almost one-third in little over a decade. For this, of course, he was crucified and vilified by the media and certain academics. We need similar today, FG and FF should come together and jointly formulate a new National Development Plan to improve the country’s infrastructure and cope with rapidly-growing population. This should now be their main priority, not constitutional conventions stuffed with adolescent leftists for which there is no public demand at all. The core of a new NDP should be realistic projections of the likely growth in population, not fairy tales about depopulation driven by the media.

Although nothing is ever certain, I think it likely that population growth will accelerate over the next few years to its peak Celtic Tiger level (around 80k-100k annually) and maybe even above. Not at that level forever, but for quite a few years at least. The government must prepare for this. I’d base this prediction on:

(a) Although it has fallen recently, Ireland still has a very high rate of natural population increase. Ireland’s ratio of births to deaths is around 2.4 (it was 2.7 a few years ago). There are around 70k births and around 30k deaths annually. In the EU as a whole the ratio is just 1.0 (i.e same number of births as deaths). In many EU countries there are now fewer births than deaths and this number is increasing every year. In the worst-case countries, like Germany and some east-European countries, the number of births is barely half the number of deaths.

(b) Annual population increase is already probably circa 50k annually. We now know from the census that it averaged 34k annually in the 2011-2016 period. But, it was clearly growing much faster at the end of that period (as the economy improved) than at the beginning. There has almost certainly been net immigration since 2014. I can’t see anything other than that this will increase in coming years (for the reasons given below)

(c) Brexit. If the UK imposes formal restrictions on the number of east Europeans, Ireland is their obvious alternative. Even if they don’t, many east Europeans now feel unwelcome in the UK. I should say that, although Ireland should be very wary of too high a level of immigration from North Africa, the Middle-East and the Indian sub-continent (for obvious reasons, as we saw on Thursday night), it should have no problem at all with immigration from east Europe.

(d) The tragic situation in north-west Europe. France, Belgium and the Netherlands are almost in a state-of-war. Germany is heading in the same direction, although some years behind. Unfortunately, I see no end to the terrible events we’ve witnessed in Paris, Brussels and Nice. There will be similar every few months for as far ahead as one can see. With so many crazies around, you could never rule out a similar event in Ireland. But, given the history (Ireland’s lack of participation in colonialism) and the population make-up (Ireland’s lack of a large immigrant population from previously-colonised Islamic countries), the problem will never be as bad or as persistent in Ireland.

(e) Continued high FDI to Ireland. Ireland has long been attractive for FDI. But, just right now and partly for reasons outside its control, its super-attractive in comparison with the rest of Europe. Provided it sticks to stable center-right business-friendly government, and keeps costs and government expenditure under control, it will stay super-attractive. Other countries are attractive in certain aspects, but fall down on others. The Nordic countries have good infrastructure, but high costs and high taxes. And, its a myth that they all have good education – as the last PISA results showed, only Finland does (Sweden’s PISA results were abysmal, largely due to the orgy of political correctness its undergone in recent years). The Mediterranean countries fare very badly in education (awful PISA results) and are not really serious competitors for high-tech high-skilled FDI. They also have very low birth rates and bad demographics. France is in a terrible state, with high taxes, socialist bureaucracy and now, tragically, is in a virtual state of war. As a Francophile, and one who, as a student in the late1960s, travelled round France while it was still in its glory days under the great CharlesDeGaulle (Les Trentes Glorieuese, as the French call them), and just before the 1968 adolescent-led marxist uprising which overthrew the old order, I find France’s current state tragic. Belgium and the Netherlands are heading the same way as France in this respect. Germany is very well-run, but has terrible demographics, with so few young people coming along that they have to invite in one million immigrants from the middle-East annually (which will do wonders for social stability in coming years). And now Ireland’s main rival for FDI, the U. Kingdom, has just gone and unexpectedly shot itself in both feet and is likely to be in constitutional turmoil for several years, both in regard to the European Union and its own British Union. And, as if this wasn’t enough, the UK’s main opposition party (and only alternative government) has now been taken over by followers of Trotsky. It won’t last forever, of course. Some of the countries will solve the problems I mentioned. Britain has been a stable and business-oriented country for centuries, so one must assume it will pull itself together in a few years. Likewise in the Netheralnds. And the Nordic countries might discover that high government spending doesn’t solve problems as much as they thought, and begin to move away from tax-and-spend. And German women might start having babies again. And Sweden might come to its senses and stop falling for every nonsensical piece of political correctness that quack academics at liberal American universities spew up as the next step in the march of ‘progress’. When these things happen, Ireland will have serious rivals for FDI. But, just right now, to an American investor wishing to invest in Europe, Ireland stands out a mile as the best location, with political stability, center-right government AND opposition, low business taxes, good demographics, good education, and largely free of the turmoil now engulfing parts of Europe.

As Dan McLaughlin points out, the main danger for Ireland is that the infrastructure fails to keep up with population growth. Hence the need for a new NDP. Failure in the past few years to keep infrastructural development up with population growth (e.g. the housing shortage) may be excused as presumably the government was as deceived as anyone about the alleged population exodus, but after this census (and the previous one) there can be no further excuse. As I said at the start, since neither have a majority, FG and FF should come together to produce one.

The Nordic countries somehow managed to stay solvent. Which is more than the instigators of the period of milk and honey to which you constantly refer managed to do.

Bloggers will find this link on Sweden’s convergence programme of general interest, especially the introductory chapter.

Government in Sweden has a dashboard for the economy where the instruments are actually connected. Unfortunately, only the most rudimentary controls are working in Ireland’s case, including the emergency “embargo” brake essential for the periodic handbrake turns that are required.

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