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Press Statement

National Statistics Board Hosts Seminar on the Future of Census Compilation in Ireland

CSO press statement, , 11am

National Statistics Board Hosts Seminar on the Future of Census Compilation in Ireland

  • Tomorrow’s seminar marks the start of a consultative process involving stakeholders and an advisory group to discuss the future shape of Census compilation in Ireland.

  • Start of a process to consider the CSO’s approach to Census compilation and gathering population statistics to meet evolving EU regulatory requirements for more frequent demographic statistics.

  • Discussions to review options on integrating data sources such as administrative records to complement traditional collection methods.

  • Public consultation to follow later in the year.

Discussion on the Future of Census Compilation in Ireland

The National Statistics Board (NSB) will host a seminar tomorrow (01 February 2024) to consider options on how future Censuses are compiled in Ireland. The role of the NSB, as defined by the Statistics Act, is to guide the broad strategic direction of the Central Statistics Office (CSO) and to establish priorities for the development of official statistics in Ireland. The CSO is Ireland's National Statistical Institute (NSI) and is trusted to impartially collect, analyse and make available statistics about Ireland’s people, society, and economy.

The evolving EU regulatory environment for statistics is leading to an increased requirement for more timely, frequent, and granular data, evidence, and insight. European regulatory changes envisaged post-2027 will see detailed information on population and housing usually associated with the five-yearly Census being produced more frequently, with some data being sought annually, and other data needed at three-to-four-year intervals.

While the Irish Census enjoys very strong participation rates, international experience shows falling response rates are an issue for many NSIs allied to the traditional challenge of surveying hard-to-reach groups. In Census 2022, 96% of the Census was primary data – as in from the physical forms - and the dataset was complemented with approximately 4% of administrative data to provide a more comprehensive picture.

Complex societal issues also require more statistical insights and we need future proofed means of measuring demographic trends. Tomorrow’s seminar brings together key stakeholders to consider some of the options available to compile population statistics which meet these requirements and the frequency with which these statistics will need to be produced.

The seminar will be opened by the Government Chief Whip and Minister of State with responsibility for Public Health, Well Being and the National Drugs Strategy, Hildegarde Naughton, T.D. Speakers taking part in tomorrow’s seminar include:

  • From the CSO: Richard McMahon, Assistant Director General, Social Statistics; Tim Linehan, Senior Statistician: Life Events and Demography; Cormac Halpin, Senior Statistician: Census Outputs.
  • Catriona Crowe, Archivist and Broadcaster.
  • Martin Quigley, Director of Data and Analytics at Pobal.
  • Helen Russell, Research Professor at the Economic and Social Research Institute.
  • Jennet Woolford, Director of Population Statistics at the Office for National Statistics in the U.K.

Their contributions will form part of a discussion document for the public consultation process which will be published later in the year.


Government Chief Whip and Minister of State with responsibility for Public Health, Well Being and the National Drugs Strategy, Hildegarde Naughton, T.D., said: “The Census tells the story of Ireland, how our society has changed over time, and it forms a key part of our national collective memory. The evolution of the Census has been based on high quality statistics that provide independent insight and information for all; principles that are as relevant now as they have ever been. Looking to the future, new European regulatory requirements and changing user needs are further increasing demand for official statistics. In this context, this seminar starts an important conversation on what Census compilation may look like in the future to respond to the changing environment. I thank the National Statistics Board for its initiative in hosting this seminar and I encourage all interested parties to have their say in the upcoming public consultation process.”

Anne Vaughan, Chairperson of the NSB, said: “The Irish public has a remarkable connection to the Census and this is clear from the participation in the survey and interest in its findings. The Census tells the story of our evolving society, however, the Census process itself is also evolving with Census 2027 moving to a multi-mode model that will give people a digital option to complete their form for the first time. New EU regulatory requirements for more frequent and granular data, added to the opportunities available from new data sources, mean it is important that we consider the future shape of our Census. The consultative process starting today will help inform what the future Census model should look like and will involve an opportunity for the public to have their say. We look forward to hearing these views as we go through the process.”

In line with other National Statistical Institutes, the methodology underpinning the Census in Ireland is always being reviewed and the CSO welcomes this seminar to explore the future of Census compilation.

Pádraig Dalton, Director General of the CSO, said: “The CSO is proud of the public’s sense of ownership and attachment to the Census. Given the changing requirements for population statistics, today’s NSB seminar on options for how we compile Census data into the future is very welcome. The CSO is pleased to help inform the seminar and consultation process, such as through our technical insights. However, we do not have a fixed view on what shape the future model should take. The approach for Census 2027 is agreed and it is anticipated that Census 2031 will also be a traditional model, with any potential changes being considered for Census 2036 and beyond. This process is an opportunity to consider how best to compile Census data to meet all user needs and examine international experiences, while building on its unique role in Irish life.”

Following this seminar in Dublin Castle, a consultation document will be published later in the year by the CSO providing context on international approaches to Censuses as well as considerations around the utilisation of administrative data.


Is the traditional Census ending and being replaced by a different model?

No, there are no proposals to end the current Census. Discussions are being held on future options for Census compilation. This could include the frequency of the Census or how administrative data is used to complement the traditional Census model.

The discussions being held, and the public consultation to follow, are about what the future model could or should look like and the frequency of gathering this data. The CSO’s role is to help inform the discussions, but the CSO does not have a fixed view on what that model should be. They will be informed by this seminar and the consultation that follows.

In line with other National Statistical Institutes, the methodology underpinning the Census in Ireland is always being reviewed and the CSO welcomes this seminar to explore the future of Census compilation.

Why is this being considered now?

The Irish Census enjoys strong participation and the public has special affinity with the Census as a historical record that provides insight into how we live our lives. This is a very strong base to work from, however, the EU regulatory environment is changing, and it is important to ensure the Census model is future proofed.

New EU regulatory requirements for more frequent and granular demographic information are on the horizon. To meet these requirements, it is necessary to consider the role the Census can play on its own or in addition to emerging statistical methods to measure the population.

International evidence also shows that maintaining participation levels can be challenging and so it is important to consider this experience and the options available to ensure the Census continues to meet the needs of all users of its information.

It is important to consider all these issues in good time and with a good process of consultation.

What changes are being proposed in the near term?

Census compilation is an evolving process, and the best example is Census 2027 moving to a multi-mode model that will give people a digital option to complete their form for the first time. The process for Census compilation in 2027 has been decided and a large-scale pilot is planned for Autumn 2024.

The proposals under consideration as part of this seminar do not relate to Census 2027 and it is not likely they will relate to Census 2031.

When will any proposed changes apply?

This is the beginning of a consultation process on potential future Census compilation models and no decisions have been made.

Anticipated EU regulatory requirements for more frequent and granular statistics, allied to evolving methodologies for the compilation of population estimates from administrative data, will see significant change in demography statistics over the coming decade. It is anticipated that a traditional Census collection approach will take place for Census 2031 and any proposals for a changed approach would apply from Census 2036 and beyond.

When will the public get to have their say on the process?

Following this seminar, a discussion document will be collated and will be published later in the year. Submissions will then be invited from the public and any interested parties.

Can alternative compilation methods give the same insights as the Census?

The use of administrative data is evolving and has many potential applications, such as more timely population estimates. Nonetheless challenges exist with just using administrative data, for instance not being able to provide attribute data such as religious affiliation or sexuality. The fact that this type of data cannot be sourced from administrative data will need to be considered against the need for more frequent and more timely Census data.

How will feedback from the public consultation be considered?

The CSO will develop a mechanism which will consider the feedback from the consultation process and advise the CSO on potential Census compilation options. The mechanism will be established to inform the collation of the consultation document. It is anticipated the consultation document will be published early in the second half of the year.

Who will make the final decision on any changes to the Census?

In line with the CSO’s remit as an independent statutory agency, Section 13 of the Statistics Act, 1993, states that the Director General of the CSO has responsibility for the methodology, timing, and dissemination of statistics compiled by the CSO. However, any proposals for changes to the future of Census compilation will be considered as part of an engagement process with the public, stakeholders, and Government.

What are Administrative Data?

Administrative data includes records which are not primarily collected for statistical purposes. Administrative data sources include information collected by Government departments and agencies such as house sale prices filed to the Revenue Commissioners or births, deaths, and marriages as registered with the General Register Office. In the Census, administrative data on electricity has been used to help identify vacant homes, as well as birth registry details to complement completed forms.

The use of administrative data is evolving and has been used as a method for producing usually resident population statistics using datasets from public sector bodies to help produce population estimates on an annual basis. This method works by considering the level of activity in different administrative data sources – such as in education enrolment - over the year. This work includes examining how Census-type data can be generated from administrative sources to complement traditional data collection methods. Such uses of administrative data are based on evolving methodologies which may form a significant element in Irish population and demography statistics as regulatory requirements evolve.


John Byrne (+353) 21 453 5000

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