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Historical Perspective

The compilation of Irish statistics commenced in the first half of the 19th century, for example:

  • comprehensive decennial Censuses of Population from 1841
  • annual Censuses of Agriculture from 1845
  • marriage statistics from 1845
  • birth and death statistics from 1864.

Following the foundation of the State in 1922 a Statistics Branch was established in the new Department of Industry and Commerce.  This Branch was responsible for the compilation of official statistics up until 1949.

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) was established in 1949. To ensure its independence on statistical matters, it became a separate Office attached to the Department of the Taoiseach.  The Statistics Acts, 1926 and 1946 provided the statutory basis for the compilation of statistics up until 1994. 

On 1 November 1994, the Statistics Act, 1993 came into force, providing a modernised basis for the compilation and dissemination of official statistics.

Statistics Act, 1993

The provisions of the Statistics Act, 1993 include:

The establishment on a statutory basis of the CSO as an independent Office under the aegis of the Taoiseach

  • The functions of the CSO, under Section 10(1) of the Act, are the collection, compilation, extraction and dissemination for statistical information relating to economic, social and general activities and conditions in the State
  • In addition, the CSO has authority to co-ordinate official statistics compiled by public authorities, to assess the statistical potential of the records maintained by public authorities and to ensure that this potential is realised in so far as resources permit
  • The CSO may collect information from persons and undertakings and the provision of particular statistics may, by Ministerial Order, be made obligatory
  • The Director-General of the CSO is responsible for the management of the Office and is also independent on statistical matters (i.e. has sole responsibility for the statistical methodologies and professional standards to be followed, the content of statistical releases and publications, and the timing and methods of dissemination of the statistics compiled)
  • The National Statistics Board, with the agreement of the Taoiseach, has the general function of guiding the strategic direction of the CSO
  • The CSO is entitled to have access to administrative records held by public authorities for statistical purposes, subject to some limitations and conditions
  • The Act protects the confidentiality of information furnished to the CSO.  All individual information relating to persons or concerns must be treated as strictly confidential and such information may only be used for statistical purposes.

Mandate and Mission

The mandate of the CSO is: The collection, compilation, extraction and dissemination for statistical purposes of information relating to economic, social and general activities and conditions in the State.

Statistics play an important role in the formation, implementation and monitoring of public policy and programmes at national, regional and local levels.  In fulfilling our mandate, we provide statistics to meet the needs of Government and the wider national and international community (i.e. business, EU, international organisations, media, education, researchers, and the public generally) for impartial and relevant information on social and economic conditions. 

The CSO’s Mission Statement, from our Statement of Strategy 2015-2017, encapsulates our commitment to meeting society’s needs for statistical information:

Turning data into information and knowledge for Ireland

International Statistical Dimension

There is also a significant international dimension to the CSO's work through the provision of statistics that may be compared directly with corresponding data for other countries (see International Relations).

This is particularly the case in respect of our participation in the European Statistical System (ESS). Meeting EU requirements has been the single most important factor shaping the development of the CSO's work since the 1970s.  Since accession to the European Community in 1973 the CSO's work programme has been almost been completely driven by the mandatory requirements of EU Directives and Regulations.

The basic principles and rules for how the European Statistical System should function are laid down in Regulation 223/2009 as amended by Regulation 2015/759.  It provides the basic principles and rules regarding:

  • cooperation within the ESS as regards European statistics
  • statistical governance and establishment of the European Statistical System Committee
  • production of European statistics and agreement of European statistical programmes
  • dissemination of European statistics.

In addition, it also requires that the production of European statistics should be governed by the principles of impartiality, reliability, relevance, cost effectiveness, statistical confidentiality and transparency.  These principles reflect internationally accepted best practice for the production of official statistics.

EU statistical requirements are laid down in sector-specific legislation; the majority of which are mandatory on member states under Council Regulations and Directives.  The principal provisions are listed at https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/european-statistical-system/programmes-and-activities/legislation-in-force.

The European Statistics Code of Practice is recognised under Regulation 223/2009 as amended by 2015/759.  This sets out the principles by which National Statistical Institutes within the EU should operate.  This code comprises 15 principles in relation to professional independence, statistical confidentiality, and the quality, impartiality and objectivity of official statistics.

Statistical Standards and Quality

In fulfilling its mandate the CSO applies the best statistical standards and methodology, and adheres to the highest professional standards of impartiality, integrity and independence.  These include the IMF Special Data Dissemination Standard (SDDS).  The Office fully subscribes to the UN Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics.  The CSO also rigorously protects the confidentiality of the data provided by survey respondents which, as already emphasised, is legally guaranteed under the Statistics Act, 1993 (see Code of Practice on Statistical Confidentiality).

The methodology used for the compilation of statistics is available on the Methods area of the CSO website. Further details are available on request.  In almost all instances the Office now applies methodology that is harmonised at EU level for the production of Community statistics.

The CSO’s commitment to the quality of the statistics produced and disseminated is set out in its quality statement (see Central Statistics Office Quality Statement (PDF 101KB) ).  The Statistics Act, 1993 gives the CSO the authority to assess the statistical potential of the records maintained by other public authorities and to ensure that this potential is realised; therefore, the CSO has indirect access on a statutory basis to data on individuals and businesses collected for administrative purposes. A CSO Data Protocol for how the CSO manages the combining of CSO and non-CSO data came into effect in May 2005. The Protocol covers any work undertaken within the CSO to match the individual records contained in two or more data holdings, at least one of which originates outside the Office.  It also covers any assistance the CSO may give to other public authorities to enable them to link data holdings under their control for statistical purposes.  The CSO has also set out its policy on Official Statistics and Data Protection; the document aims to provide assurance to all data providers about the safeguards implemented in the Office as regards statistical confidentiality and data protection.  A summary of the CSO Data Management Policy is available on the CSO website. 

The standard report on methods and quality provides information to users on the methodology in place in the particular survey area together with an assessment of the quality of the resulting survey output. The reports contain sections on general information on the survey, information on statistical concepts and the production of statistics and also information on quality.  Standard reports on methods and quality are posted on the CSO website under methodology.

Irish Statistical System Code of Practice

The CSO has a formal coordination role to play across the public service in relation to official statistics. This coordination role is set in a legal context in both national and EU legislation (EC Regulation No. 223/2009 and Regulation 2015/7592).  Statistics produced within the Irish Statistical System (ISS) will be assessed against the Irish Statistical System Code of Practice (ISSCoP).  Statistics assessed as being compliant with the code will be designated as official statistics and may be published under the ISSCoP Logo.

CSO Locations and Contacts

CSO location and contact information are described here.  If you have a specific subject matter query, you may contact the relevant person(s) in the CSO directly.

Liaison Groups

In order to assess the needs and priorities of national users, the Office operates a number of User Liaison Groups across a range of topics. The Groups are listed at CSO Groups on the CSO website.

Organisational Aspects

CSO Structure

The top management structure of the CSO is comprised of a Director General and a Directorate.  The Directorates broadly reflect distinct statistical areas, but with a
substantial degree of co-operation and interaction between Directorates and Divisions. Updated versions of the Directorate and Divisional responsibilities are described at http://www.cso.ie/en/aboutus/whoweare/organisationstructure/.

Pay/Grading Structures

Circular 9/2021 - Pay Increases July 1st – FEMPI pay restoration for staff earning up to €150,000

https://www.gov.ie/en/circular/5dedb-application-of-1-july-2021-fempi-pay-restoration-for-certain-civil-service-grades-with-basic-salary-of-not-more-than-150000/

Circular 19/2021 - Application of 1 October 2021 Pay Adjustments https://www.gov.ie/en/circular/7bdc5-application-of-1-october-2021-pay-adjustments/

Pay Structure for Grades unique to the Central Statistics Office - 1 October 2021 (PDF 81KB)

Lobbying

The Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 is designed to provide information to the public about who is lobbying whom about what. Further information is available at www.lobbying.ie.

Section 6(4) of the Act requires each public body to publish a list of designated public officials of the body.  The purpose of the list is:

  • to allow members of the public to identify those persons who are designated public officials
  • to be used as a resource for lobbyists filing a return to the Register who may need to source a designated public official’s details.

The designated public officials in the CSO are listed on the website at Regulation of Lobbying.

National Statistics Board

The National Statistics Board was initially set up on a non-statutory basis in 1986. It was established on a statutory basis when the Statistics Act, 1993 came into operation in November 1994. Its function, set out in the Act, is to guide the strategic direction of the CSO and, in particular to:

  • establish priorities for the compilation and development of official statistics;
  • assess the resources of staff, equipment and finance which should be made available for the compilation of official statistics; and
  • arbitrate, subject to the final decision of the Taoiseach, on any conflicts that may arise with other public authorities relating to the extraction of statistics from records or to the co-ordination of statistical activities.

The Board has eight members.  Two are senior representatives of the Department of Finance and Department of the Taoiseach.  Five persons are nominated, two by the Taoiseach and three by organisations representative of the users of official statistics and providers of information under the Act.  The Director General of the CSO is an ex officio member of the Board.

The Board prepares five-year Strategies for Statistics, following an extensive consultative process, for agreement by Government.  Progress in implementing these strategies is assessed by the Board in regular reports.

Annual Statistical Work Programme, Statements of Strategy and Annual Reports

The CSO prepares a consolidated Annual Statistical Work Programme covering statistical surveys and other statistical activities.

The CSO prepares three-year Statements of Strategy setting out the key objectives, outputs and related strategies (including the use of resources) for the CSO over the three-year period.  Progress in implementing these statements of strategy is outlined by the CSO in Annual Reports.  Strategy documents and associated annual reports are available at http://www.cso.ie/en/aboutus/corporatepublications/

Classes of Records

Data Classification Scheme

The CSO Data Classification Scheme distinguishes the following categories of data:

CSO Data Classification Scheme – Categories and sub-categories

Category A

All confidential statistical micro-data

 

A1

All personal confidential statistical micro-data

 

A2

All business confidential statistical micro-data

 

A3

Research Micro-data Files (RMFs)

Category B

Personal or commercially-sensitive records used in the course of office administration

Category C

Dissemination data

 

C1

Releases, Tables and Publications in preparation

 

C2

Published Releases, Tables and Publications

 

C3

Tables or analysis provided in response to ad-hoc queries

Category D

All other information recorded in the course of running the Office

The scheme sets out the basic rules in relation to each of these categories. The rules are designed to assure the confidentiality and security of the information received from individuals, businesses and public bodies.

Identifiable Statistical Information

These records include all information collected directly for CSO statistical purposes in statutory or voluntary inquiries from persons, households, businesses and undertakings, or indirectly from the administrative records of public authorities held on completed questionnaires, worksheets or data bases. 

The confidentiality of identifiable information collected by the CSO for statistical purposes, in statutory or voluntary inquiries, from individual persons, households, businesses and other undertakings, or indirectly from the administrative records of public authorities, is legally protected under Sections 32 and 33 of the Statistics Act, 19931 and is exempted from the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2014.

Identifiable Statistical Information is securely destroyed when no longer required for statistical purposes.

Information Generally Available to the Public

This information includes:

  • statistical publications and regular Statistical Releases issued by the CSO (see http://www.cso.ie/en/statistics/a-zofreleasespublications/)
  • details of the activities of the Office, descriptions of statistical methodology and other national, EU and international statistical related documentation and publications available from the relevant subject matter area
  • ad hoc statistical analyses, not incorporated as part of standard reports or releases, which are provided to users on request.

Pre-Release Practice for Certain CSO Statistics

The CSO gives short advance notice of the results of certain statistical releases to a limited number of Government Departments and Agencies.  Details of the pre-release practice for these releases are published on the CSO website (see CSO Policy on Pre-Release Access).

Statistical Results in Preparation

These records include correspondence with survey respondents, other correspondence, statistical worksheets, micro-data bases and other miscellaneous statistical and operational records held in paper (on Official Files registered with the central Registry or local work files) or in electronic form. 

Other Statistical Management Information

These records include survey and field staff instructions, methodological manuals, operational instructions, methodology and processing guidelines, EU meeting papers and documentation, and other miscellaneous statistical management records held in paper (on Official Files registered with the central Registry or local work files) or in electronic form. 

Staff Information Material

This information includes:

  • Code of Practice on Statistical Confidentiality
  • Outline of the assignments of responsibilities by the Director General for
    the performance of functions under Section 4(1) of the Public Service
    Management Act, 1997 with effect from 19 January 2016
  • Safety Statements
  • Official circulars, office notices and other staff information documentation. 

These documents are available from Human Resources.

Human Resources Records

These records relate to:

  • Human Resources records including Official Personnel Files for each staff member, flexi-time printouts, staff salary files, travel/subsistence claims and payments, overtime records, refund of fees (third level courses), database of staff qualifications and training records, training course nominations and attendance, recruitment and promotion interviews records and assessments, and other miscellaneous staff-related records (including sick leave, dismissals, compensation, work reports, clearances, representations, etc.) in paper or electronic form
  • Local management staff records relating to sick leave, annual leave, probation reports, increment reports, promotion assessment forms, field staff recruitment and administration, training courses, flexi-time records, correspondence with Human Resources, etc. in paper or in electronic form. 

Financial Records

These records include files and other documentation relating to annual Estimates, Appropriation Accounts, purchases and expenditure records, EU contracts and receipts, tender documents, payments to suppliers, petty cash accounts, register of non-IT assets and other miscellaneous financial related records in paper or in electronic form.

Other Records

These records include, strategy statements, divisional action plans, local business plans, reports, publications, consultancy reports and other miscellaneous correspondence, administrative documentation and other information held in paper or electronic form.

IT records include computer systems specifications and programs, computer operation and systems application instructions, requests for proposals, tender documents, purchase records, correspondence with suppliers, other correspondence, register of IT assets, consultancy reports, software, software licences, helpdesk reports, software/hardware evaluation reports, software audits, service reports, disaster recovery plans, IT strategy, training material, training administration documentation, systems usage records, national and international meeting papers and documentation, and other miscellaneous paper and electronic IT related files, documents and records held in IT Division or sections.

Service Level Agreements/Memoranda of Understanding

The CSO has Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) in place with a number of public bodies for the purposes of enhanced data cooperation and to ensure a more systematic use of administrative data for statistical purposes.  These agreements facilitate the CSO in producing wider and deeper statistical analyses and also a diminution of the administrative burden on businesses arising from CSO surveys.  The current list is set out at Memorandums of Understanding

CSO Information Services

The CSO already has a range of well-developed information services.  These are detailed on our website in the http://www.cso.ie/en/media/csoie/aboutus/documents/csoguide.pdf

The CSO charter sets out the commitment of the Office regarding the service that customers can expect in their dealings with the CSO.  It is available on the CSO website at Customer Charter.

CSO Complaints Procedure

The CSO is committed to providing a high quality service to all who deal with the Office. Details of how to complain are set out at Customer Complaints Procedure where a person is not satisfied with the service provided.  Complaints will be dealt with promptly, impartially and in confidence.


1    Similar statutory protection applies to birth and death records under Section 2 of the Vital Statistics and Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act, 1952.