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Wide variation in possible population outcomes

If the recent trends of high net inward migration and relatively high fertility rates were to broadly continue (scenario M1F1) then Ireland's population, which according to the 2006 census stood at 4.25 million, would reach 5 million by 2014. This can be seen from a report on population and labour force projections published today by the CSO. However, with zero net migration and declining fertility (M0F2) the population is projected to reach just 4.9 million by 2041.

Population and Labour Force Projections 2011-2041 presents population projections, based on a number of contrasting scenarios relating to future trends in fertility, mortality and migration, for 2011 to 2041 and Labour Force projections for 2011 to 2021.

The migration assumptions are the most important factor in determining the projected population outcomes; the three chosen range from zero (M0) to a sustained high net inward flow of almost 40,000 per annum (M1) over the projection period.

Old persons to account for more than one in five of 2041 population

The CSO publication reveals that irrespective of the combination of assumptions used there will be between 1.3 and 1.4 million old persons (those aged 65 years and over) in 2041 compared with 460,000 in 2006. This implies that 20 to 25 per cent of the population will be aged 65 years and over in 2041 compared with 11 per cent in 2006.

The number of "oldest old" persons (those aged 80 years and over) is projected to quadruple from a level of 110,000 in 2006 to about 440,000 in 2041.

Primary school-going population set to increase

The population aged 5-12 years, corresponding to children of primary school-going age, is projected to increase by at least 10 per cent in the next decade even with zero net migration and falling fertility rates. However, if net immigration continues at close to its current high rate and fertility remains at 1.9 children per woman (M1F1) then the number of primary school children would increase from its present level of over 450,000 to 650,000 by 2025.

Labour force growth set to continue

With assumed zero net migration (M0) the population of working age (15-64 years) is projected to increase by 0.4 per cent per annum in the period to 2021. The corresponding annual increases under M2 and M1 would be 1.4 per cent and 1.7 per cent respectively.
Applying assumed labour force participation rates to the working age population yields labour force projections for the next fifteen years. Under M0 the labour force is projected to grow by just 13,000 annually in the period to 2021 compared with 61,000 annually between 1996 and 2006. The corresponding annual increases under M2 and M1 would be 40,000 and 50,000 respectively.

The female share of the labour force is projected to remain unchanged at just over 42 per cent in the period to 2021.

Editor's note

The following is a summary of the assumptions underlying the projections:

  • The high fertility assumption (F1) envisages the total fertility (TFR), i.e. the average number of children per woman, remaining at its 2006 level of 1.9 for the lifetime of the projections. The low assumption (F2) would see a decline in the TFR from its current level of 1.9 to 1.65 by 2016, remaining constant thereafter.
  • Life expectancy is assumed to increase from its current level of 76.7 years for males to 86.5 years by 2041. The corresponding figures for females are 81.5 and 88.2 years.
  • The high migration scenario (M1) assumes annual net immigration of 39,000 over the projection period while migration scenario M2 assumes a more modest net inflow of 21,400 per annum in the period to 2041.
  • Minor increases in the labour force participation rates of older males and further gains for young married females are assumed.

The assumptions used in the population and labour force projections were agreed by a broadly based expert group.

For copies of the publication contact:

Central Statistics Office, Information Section, Skehard Road, Cork. 021- 4535011
Government Publications Sales Office, Sun Alliance House, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2.
Price: €15 [Copies can also be downloaded from the CSO website (see below)].

For further information contact:

Aidan Punch on 01-498 4316 or Deirdre Cullen on 01-895 1334.
Central Statistics Office, Swords Business Campus, Balheary Road, Swords, Co. Dublin.

Census Enquiries: (01) 895 1460/61/63/66
Fax: (01) 895 1399

30 April 2008

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