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Population and Labour Force Projections, 2016-2046


Primary school population set to rise substantially


The Central Statistics Office today released the most recent set of population projections based on the 2011 census results, showing that the population of primary school aged children is projected to increase by between 87,800 and 100,300 by 2021, before falling back slightly in 2026. This represents an increase of between 17 and 20 per cent on the 2011 figure of 502,300, or between 8,800 and 10,000 each year up to 2021.

Today’s report, Population and Labour Force Projections, 2016-2046 presents population projections under a number of contrasting scenarios relating to future trends in migration, fertility and mortality for each year from 2011 to 2046. Labour force projections are presented up to 2026.

“The report is not an attempt to predict the future, but rather presents how the population will evolve under different scenarios” Deirdre Cullen, Senior Statistician of the Central Statistics Office explained. “By making assumptions about future trends in migration and fertility we can project the population forward and examine the possible outcomes for, say, the school-going population, the working age population and the elderly”.

The report contains six different outcomes for the population based on three different assumptions around migration and two assumptions on fertility. Under the most positive assumption migration is projected to return to positive by 2016 and to steadily increase to 30,000 per year by 2021. Fertility, which is presently the highest in Europe at 2.1, is projected to remain at current levels under the high assumption, and to fall steadily to 1.8 by 2026 under the low assumption.


Highlights of the report


Secondary school children


The secondary school aged population of 13-18 year olds is projected to increase by between 105,700 and 116,800 by 2026 depending on the assumption used, with the fastest increases expected between 2021 and 2026. This represents increases of between 31 and 34 per cent on the 2011 figure of 342,400.


Projected labour force


Under migration assumption M1, which assumes net inward migration returning to positive by 2016 the labour force is projected to increase by just under 300,000 over the 15 years, representing an annual average increase of 20,000.

Under the negative migration assumption of continuing net outward migration the labour force is projected to contract by 14,500 by 2016 before growing slowly by 5,900 per annum over the following ten years, resulting in an annual average increase over the entire 15 years of just 0.1 per cent.


Number of older persons set to increase


The old population (i.e. those aged 65 years and over) is projected to increase very significantly from its 2011 level of 532,000 to between 850,000 and 860,700 by 2026, and to close to 1.4 million by 2046. The very old population (i.e. those aged 80 years of age and over) is set to rise even more dramatically, increasing from 128,000 in 2011 to between 484,000 and 470,000 in 2046 depending on the scenario chosen.

Ms Cullen concluded “The CSO are assisted in this work by an Expert Group consisting of representatives of government departments, as well as the universities and other bodies, and would like to put on record our appreciation for their time on this work”.


Editor’s note


The following summarises the assumptions underlying the projections:




The high fertility assumption F1 assumes the total fertility rate will remain at the level observed in 2010 of 2.1 for the entire period while the low fertility assumption F2 assumes the total fertility rate will decrease from 2.1 to 1.8 by 2026, and then remain at this level for the remainder of the period.




Improvements in life expectancy are assumed to continue for the foreseeable future resulting in male life expectancy increasing from 77.9 to 85.1 by 2046 and female life expectancy increasing from 82.7 to 88.5.




Under the most optimistic migration scenario M1, the Group assumed a return to positive net migration by 2016, rising slowly thereafter before settling at an annual rate of plus 30,000 by 2021 and remaining at this level thereafter. Under the less optimistic scenario of M2, migration is assumed to turn positive by 2018 before reaching an annual flow of plus 10,000 by 2021 while under a negative scenario, M3, migration is assumed to remain negative throughout the life time of the projections settling at -5,000 in 2021 and remaining at that level.


Labour Force


Participation rates of 25-44 year old males are assumed to recover to 2006 rates by 2021 while there are increases in participation rates of males aged 45 and over reflecting a greater propensity to remain in the labour force. Further gains for younger married females are assumed.


For copies of the publication contact:


Central Statistics Office, Information Section, Skehard Road, Cork. 021 – 4535011

Copies can also be downloaded from the CSO website:

Population and Labour Force Projections 2016-2046 (PDF 467KB)


For further information contact:


Deirdre Cullen on 01-895 1334 or Declan Smyth on 01-8951345.

Central Statistics Office, Swords Business Campus, Balheary Road, Swords, Co. Dublin.

Census Enquiries: (01) 895 1460

Fax: (01) 895 1399




Central Statistics Office                                                                       30 April 2013

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