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Date Published: Wed, 02 Mar 2016

Life in 1916 Ireland: Stories from statistics was published today by the CSO to mark the centenary of 1916 by illustrating what life was like for people living 100 years ago.

The population of Ireland increased by 46% in the 100 years between 1911 and 2011, from 3.1 million to 4.6 million people. Today in Ireland there are fewer young people and more middle aged people compared with Ireland in 1911. There is much more variety today in names for baby boys and girls compared with over 100 years ago. Irish names for babies such as Aoife or Oisín, which were rare in 1911, are now very popular. (Tables 1.1, 1.2, 1.6 and 1.7)

Dublin was a city of extremes in housing in 1911, when 22% of dwellings were large homes (with 10 or more rooms) and 36% were one room tenements. Nearly half of workers were in Agriculture, in comparison to just 5% today. One in ten workers in 1911 worked as a domestic servant compared to only a few thousand people in 2011. (Tables 2.1, 2.2, 2.3 and 2.4)

The rate of illiteracy in Ireland was 8.3% in 1911 and varied widely across the country, with the lowest rate in Dublin and the highest rates in Donegal, Galway, Mayo and Waterford. Close to 10% of the population was Protestant in Ireland in 1911 but by 2011 this had dropped to 3.6%. Less than a fifth of the population could speak Irish in 1911 and this had increased to two-fifths by 2011. (Tables 2.5, 2.7 and 2.8)

Average daily attendance at National schools in 1916 was 70.7% compared to 94.1% in 2013. Nearly 7,000 second level students took the Junior Intermediate Examination in 1916 and 58% of the candidates were male. In 2015 there were just under 60,000 candidates for the Junior Certificate exam and about 50% of the candidates were male. Over 7,900 children lived in Industrial schools in 1916 and 708 in Reformatory schools. Of the 822 children admitted to Industrial schools in 1916, 146 were less than six years old while 146 were aged between six and eight years of age. (Tables 2.13, 2.17, 2.21 and 2.24)

Just 2.4% of births in 1916 were outside marriage but by 2012 over a third were outside marriage, with rates of over 40% in Dublin City, Waterford, Louth and Wexford. The infant mortality rate was 81.3 in Ireland in 1916, i.e., for every 1,000 babies born during 1916, 81 died before they reached twelve months of age. The highest rate was in Dublin city at 153.5 and the lowest rate was in Roscommon at 34.6. By 2014 the infant mortality rate in Ireland was very low at 3.7 per 1,000 births. (Tables 3.2, 3.4)

The vast majority (92%) of marriages in 1916 were Catholic ceremonies but by 2014 this had dropped to just under 60%. About one in eight deaths in 1916 was due to bronchitis and pneumonia which killed 6,708 people, with another one in eight deaths caused by tuberculosis (TB) which killed 6,471 people. Most deaths in 2014 occurred in older age groups but deaths in 1916 were spread more evenly across all age groups – one in five deaths in 1916 occurred to a child under 15 years of age. Life expectancy has risen strongly since 1911 for all age groups, with the greatest increases for younger age groups. A baby boy born in 2011 can expect to live for nearly 25 more years than a baby born in 1911, while a baby girl born in 2011 can expect to have an extra 28.6 years of life compared to a girl born in 1911. (Tables 3.6, 3.8 and 3.12)

In 1916 the overall fiscal situation in Ireland was very favourable for the British Government. Nearly £24 million was raised in Ireland but just over half of this, £12.6 million, was spent in Ireland, giving a surplus of over £11 million towards the war effort in Britain. The basket of goods used for the Consumer Price index in 1922 shows that just over 57% of average household expenditure was on food and non-alcoholic drink 1911, compared to just 11.4% in 2011. The number of farms fell by over 60% between 1915 and 2010 while average farm size in Ireland more than doubled, increasing from 14 to 33 hectares over the same time period. (Tables 4.9, 4.10, 4.11, 4.15)

There were nearly 10,000 cars in Ireland in 1915, with cars registered in every county in Ireland while by 2014 there were 1.9 million private cars. Cork had a fleet of 35 electric trams in 1901 while the trams in Dublin had a fleet of 330 by 1911 and operated on lines which ran for 60 miles (96 km). By 2013 the Luas Red and Green lines in Dublin were 37km in length. (Tables 4.23 and 4.26)

Editor’s note: Life in 1916 Ireland: Stories from Statistics is available on the CSO web site ( and a selection of the material from the electronic publication is available in a book, (contact Information section in the CSO at or (021) 453 5000 or (01) 498 5000).


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For further information, contact:

Helen Cahill (+353) 1 498 4253

Moira Buckley (+353) 21 453 5028

or email

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