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Is the Census going ahead in 2021?

Following a Government decision, taken in consultation with the Central Statistics Office (CSO), the Census due to take place in April 2021 is postponed for one year.  The new Census date will be Sunday, 3 April 2022.

Press Statement - Postponement of Census 2021

Why is the Census postponed to April 2022?

The postponement was based on a number of factors.  Foremost in the decision making was the need to ensure the safety of the general public and the 5,500 CSO field staff, coupled with the need to deliver a Census that achieves the highest possible response rate across all facets of Irish society.

Along with safety concerns, the uncertainty around the pandemic, and the related public health and safety measures, have posed several substantial challenges for key activities such as recruitment, training, logistics and collection of census data.

The field operation requires significant face to face contact between enumerators, householders, and managers of communal establishments to ensure a high level of response is achieved.  A high level of response and robust data are essential to quality census results.

What protections and procedures are needed to be put in place to allow the Census to go ahead in 2022?

The Census is one of the largest logistical exercises undertaken by the State. In preparation for the Census in 2022, the CSO is developing new processes and procedures to ensure the public and CSO field staff are protected during Census field work. The CSO will continue to follow Government public health guidelines and will equip Census field staff with appropriate PPE. Staff will receive training in COVID-19 best practice. A Census information campaign is planned which will include details of the CSO’s public safety measures.

When will the next Census Results be available?

Preliminary results will be available in mid-2022 and definitive results will be made available on a phased basis from April to December 2023.

What are the impacts of the Census postponement for the EU regulation?

Under the Framework Regulation (EC) No 763/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council and implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/712, Ireland is required to transmit Census data to Eurostat with a reference date in 2021.  This transmission must be made by March 2024. CSO will work closely with Eurostat to mitigate the impact of the changed Census date and will consider the introduction of additional methodologies and data sources in order to satisfy Eurostat's requirements.

What are other Member States doing in relation to their planned censuses?

Different Member States have differing methods of census data collection and production.  Some are register based, some are multi-modal including internet options and some are traditionally field based. No matter which Census model is used, all face challenges resulting from COVID-19. Obviously, those that use the traditional field-based model will feel the highest impact.

And around the world?

Australia, Canada and England/Wales/Northern Ireland are all scheduled to conduct a census in 2021.  All of these countries run an internet census, so they are not as impacted by COVID-19 as the countries who carry out a traditional field-based census.

Scotland also has an internet census collection and has postponed its census for one year, from March 2021 to March 2022, due to the pandemic.

What measures will you apply to ensure that Census field staff can work safely with the public in the future?

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) will ensure that all necessary steps will be implemented to ensure the safety of the public. Guidelines for public health and safety will be adhered to and new practices will be adopted as and when new guidelines are published.

The CSO will take the extra preparation time to further review and amend processes around recruitment, training etc. to ensure compliance with all guidelines. Risk assessments will be carried out to identify the best COVID-19 mitigation practices that will be required.

Has the Census been postponed before?

The 1926 census was the first undertaken following the formation of the State and Censuses continued to be taken at ten-year intervals up to 1946. Since 1951 Censuses have generally been undertaken at five yearly intervals.

However, the Census planned for 1976 was cancelled at a late stage as a Government economy measure. The need for up-to-date population figures resulted in a census being specially undertaken in 1979 with a restricted number of questions. This was followed by a full census in 1981. This marked a return to the five-yearly intervals for holding a census, which continued uninterrupted until 2001, when the census, originally due to take place in April, was postponed until 2002 due to the foot and mouth disease outbreak at that time. Field staff had already been recruited when the 2001 census was cancelled.  Subsequent censuses took place as scheduled in 2006, 2011 and 2016.

Will the delay impact on the scheduling of the 2026 Census?

The postponement of the 2001 Census to 2002 did not impact on the next Census, which took place as normal in 2006. Similarly, it is anticipated that the 2026 Census will proceed as scheduled. That Census will be the 100th anniversary of the first Census of the State.