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Press Statement


23 November 2017

Profile 10 - Education, Skills and the Irish Language

Census 2016 Results Logo

1.76 million people (39.8%) can speak Irish

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) today (Thursday 23rd November) publishes the penultimate Census 2016 report, Profile 10 - Education, Skills and the Irish Language.  This publication presents details on the education and skills of the Irish population along with information on the Irish language.  It shows that 42.0% (1,216,945) of the population aged 15 and over had a third level qualification in 2016 and that 1.76 million people (aged three and over) indicated that they could speak Irish.

Deirdre Cullen, Senior Statistician, commented: This report shows a continuing decline in the numbers of early school leavers and increases in the numbers with third level qualifications.  It examines and analyses changes in these areas, as well as the relationships between the level of education completed and employment and economic status.  Profile 10 also looks at our use of the national language, including our ability to speak Irish, as well as where and how often the language is spoken.” 

Today’s full report is available on the CSO website at Census 2016 Profile 10 - Education, Skills and the Irish Language

Highlights from Profile 10 – Education, Skills and the Irish Language

Education and Skills

Third level qualifications by gender and geography 
Education levels have greatly improved in Ireland since 1991.  Of those aged 15 and over in April 2016, 42.0% had a third-level qualification, compared with 13.6% in 1991.  Census 2016 shows us that, in general, women were better educated than men, with 43.2% of females aged 15 and over having a third level qualification compared with 40.7% of males.  The counties with the highest rates of completed third-level education were Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown with 61.1%, Galway City with 55.2% and Dublin City and Fingal, both with 48.7%. 

Average age of completion of full-time education increasing
The overall average age of completion of full-time education in 2016, among the population aged 15 and over, has increased to 19.9 years compared with 19.1 years in 2011.  Monaghan had the youngest average age of completion at 18.8 years, followed by Cavan, Wexford and Donegal, all at 18.9 years. 

Link between parents’ level of education and educational participation
Looking at persons aged 20, Census 2016 shows that those with parents with higher levels of educational attainment were more likely to still be in education.  In all, 60.6% of all 20 year olds in family units were students in 2016.

Among those whose parents were educated to at most lower secondary level, 44.9% were full-time students, increasing to 65.2% for those with both parents educated to upper secondary level.  For those 20 year olds with both parents having a degree, 87.5% were full-time students.

Link between socioeconomic grouping and educational participation
The likelihood of being in education was higher among those from the higher socio-economic groups.  There were 2,008 twenty year olds in the higher professional category.  Of these 94.4% were students, the highest percentage of any socio-economic group.  The children of the employers and managers category (5,969 twenty year olds) and the lower professionals (3,991) also recorded high levels of education participation, at 92.2% and 88.7% respectively.  The children of farmers and own account workers were the only two other socio-economic groups with participation rates above 75.0%

Third level qualifications and employment
Those with a qualification in Arts had the highest unemployment rate in 2016, at 11.6% (down from 17.1% in 2011).  Between 2011 and 2016 the unemployment rate fell the most for those with a qualification in Engineering, Manufacturing and Construction, from 15.7% to 6.0%.  Those with a qualification in Education had the lowest unemployment rate in 2016 at 3.1%.

Numbers of doctorates continuing to increase
The 28,759 people who stated that they had a doctorate (Ph.D.) level qualification was an increase of 30.9% on the 2011 figure, and up 99.5% on 2006.  More males (16,016) than females (12,743) had a doctorate.  There were 23,296 persons at work among this group, while the unemployment rate was 3.4%

Irish Language

In April 2016, 1,761,420 persons (aged 3 and over) stated that they could speak Irish, 39.8% of the population.  This was a slight decline (-13,017 or -0.7%) on 2011.  More females (968,777) than males (792,643) stated that they could speak Irish. 

Ability to speak Irish by (administrative) county
Galway County recorded the highest percentages of persons able to speak Irish at 49.0%, followed by Clare (45.9%), Cork County (44.9%) and Mayo (43.9%).  In contrast, the lowest percentages were in Dublin City at 29.2%, followed by Louth and South Dublin (both 34.1%) and Cavan (34.6%). 

Frequency of speaking Irish
Of the 1,761,420 people who stated that they could speak Irish, almost one in four (418,420 or 23.8%) indicated that they never spoke it.  A further 558,608 (31.7%) indicated that they only spoke it within the education system.

Among the remaining group, 586,535 persons (33.3%) spoke Irish less often than weekly, while 111,473 (6.3%) spoke it weekly.  The number speaking Irish daily stood at 73,803, representing 1.7% of the population.  This was a decline of 3,382 (4.4%) on 2011. 

Daily Irish speakers
Of those who spoke Irish daily, 14,903 (20.2%) lived in Dublin City and suburbs.  This was an increase of 674 people (4.7%) on 2011. Cork, Galway and Limerick together accounted for 6,034 daily Irish speakers (8.2%). Outside of these cities, the largest absolute numbers of daily speakers were living in An Bun Beag-Doirí Beaga (771), followed by Letterkenny (525) and Swords (487).

Daily Irish speakers in the Gaeltacht areas of Galway County and Donegal made up almost three quarters of all daily Irish speakers in Gaeltacht areas, with 9,445 (45.9%) in Galway and 5,929 (28.8%) in Donegal. 

Editor's Note:
  • Profile 10 – Education, Skills and the Irish Language is the penultimate report from Census 2016 (11 profile reports and two summary reports). The final profile report, on Employment, Occupations and Industry, will be published on 14th December.  All of the previous profile reports, and the two Summary Reports, are available at  The reports include a range of interactive web tables, which allow users to build their own tables by selecting the data they are interested in and downloading them in an easy to use format for their own analysis.  
  • In co-operation with the All Ireland Research Observatory (AIRO) at NUI Maynooth, summary census data is available in thematic maps for Electoral Districts and all Small Areas on the AIRO website.  This can be accessed via the link on the CSO website. 
  • The CSO and Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSi) have also launched a new Open Data website which makes the Census 2016 Small Area Population Statistics (SAPS) available as geographical Open Data for the first time. Census 2016 results across 15 themes, including sex, age and marital status; families; the Irish language, and, education can be visualised in map form across 31 Administrative Counties, 95 Municipal Districts, 3,409 Electoral Divisions and 18,641 Small Areas.  The new website is part of OSi’s GeoHive platform ( and is available at
  • While no occupation data is collected from students, their socio-economic group is donated from a family member, normally a parent.
  • The then Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht identified 26 Gaeltacht Language Planning Areas (Limistéir Pleanála Teanga) for the purposes of the Gaeltacht Act 2012.  Under the Act, the existing Gaeltacht will be redesignated as Gaeltacht Language Planning Areas, providing that language plans have been agreed with the communities in the various areas in accordance with the prescribed language planning criteria.  Further details of these areas is available at  
  • The census figures relate to the de facto population, i.e. the population recorded for each area represents the total of all persons present within its boundaries on the night of Sunday, 24 April 2016, together with all persons who arrived in that area on the morning of Monday, 25 April 2016, not having been enumerated elsewhere.  Persons on board ships in port are included with the population of adjacent areas.  The figures, therefore, include visitors present on Census Night as well as those in residence, while usual residents temporarily absent from the area are excluded.
  • The de facto measure of the population in April 2016 was 4,761,865 while the usually resident total was 4,689,921 - a difference of 71,944 or 1.5%.  The usually resident measure is used when analysing topics such as commuting patterns, nationality and households and families. 
For further information contact:

Declan Smyth (+353) 1 895 1305 or Census Enquiries (+353) 1 895 1460

or email

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