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How we do the Census

Since 1951, Ireland has held a census every five years (with some exceptions). Planning for each new census begins as soon as the current census is over, or even before (we are already planning for our next census). 

The Census Form

Have you ever wondered what’s involved in producing over 2 million forms used for the census? There are a lot of steps, starting with a public consultation process on the questions to be included in the next census. 

The public consultation for this census was carried out in 2017. The submissions were considered by a Census Advisory Group, following which a Census Pilot Survey was held in 2018 to test the new and changed questions agreed by the Group. The Group discussed the results of the Survey and agreed the questions for this census. The Government then approved the contents of the form and set the date for the census (although it later had to be postponed for a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic). 

The process from design to delivery of the forms takes about a year to complete. It includes a series of regular and stringent checks throughout to check the accuracy and quality of the forms.  There are several types of Census 2022 forms, including the 24-page Household form, the four-page Individual form and the four-page Listing form (for hotels and other establishments). All forms have been printed in Ireland and are available in Irish and English. 

The blank census forms are delivered to the CSO office in Swords, Co Dublin and are sent from there to the enumerators who then deliver a form to your home to be filled out on Census Night. The enumerators return to collect your form and the completed census forms are returned to the CSO office where they are scanned, checked and analysed. This process takes about six months, after which the forms are removed to secure storage until they are made available to the public after 100 years. 

Mapping the country

For Census 2022, CSO has divided Ireland into 5,100 Enumeration Areas (EAs). This is the cornerstone of the census field operation. Enumerators are provided with a printed map, and an online map, showing every known dwelling in their area. There are approximately 400 dwellings in each area. 

The EAs are organised into administrative units and assigned to field staff. 

  • 5,100 Enumeration Areas – one assigned to each of the 5,100 enumerators
  • 466 Field Districts – one assigned to each of the 466 Field Supervisors
  • 46 Regions – one assigned to each of the 46 Regional Supervisors
  • 6 Census Liaison Areas – one assigned to each of the 6 Census Liaison Officers

Recruiting Census Field Staff

The recruitment process is carried out in a pyramid structure for 52 Senior Managers, 466 Field Supervisors, and 5,100 enumerators.

Three separate recruitments were held for these positions.  As a result, the CSO is employing (on a temporary basis) 6 Census Liaison Officers, 46 Regional Supervisors (employed from Sept/Oct 2021 to May 2022), 466 Field Supervisors (employed from January to May 2022) and 5,100 Census Enumerators (employed from 28 February to 6 May 2022).  

The CSO directly recruits all the 5,600 field staff who work on the census. The pyramid structure of recruitment is carried out in three phases using the people recruited first to assist in recruiting the next layer down. So, for example, we first recruit 52 senior managers who are given responsibility for different regions across Ireland; these people then assist in recruiting 466 field supervisors who are each responsible for managing a team of 10 or 11 enumerators. These field supervisors then assist in interviewing for the enumerator jobs. The recruitment and selection process for all appointments to these positions is conducted in accordance with the Code of Practice for Appointment to Positions in the Civil Service and Public Service, (No.01/07) published by the Commission for Public Service Appointments (CPSA).

All staff receive comprehensive training.

Delivering and collecting the forms

The enumerator must deliver a census form to every dwelling in their area before Census Night (3 April), and will return to collect the completed forms between 4 April and 6 May 2022. They are also responsible for communal establishments in their areas (such as hotels and hospitals).

Processing the forms

The completed forms are returned to the CSO office in Swords where they are guillotined, scanned and checked.  This process takes about six months

Up to 15,000 forms are processed each day. They are scanned and converted into computer images. Using Optical Character Recognition, these are converted into readable data and then checked and coded by staff with the aid of a specialised computer system. 

Once they have been scanned and checked, the completed paper forms and digital images will be stored securely for 100 years, and will then be made available to the public, as provided for in the Statistics Act, 1993. 

Producing the results

The information on the forms is analysed, summarised and prepared for publication by census statisticians. The results from Census 2022 will be published - as aggregated and anonymised data - between April and December 2023. Link to dissemination publication. The results are published on the CSO website, where anyone can access and use them. 

Outline of Project Phasing: Consultation > Design Forms > Divide up the country > Print forms and maps > Recruit staff > Information campaign > Deliver forms > Census day > Collect forms > Scan and code forms > Analyse results > Census reports