Back to Top

 Skip navigation

Components of Population Change

Open in Excel:

Net migration falls sharply

The change in the population between successive censuses can be broken down into the combined effect of natural increase (births less deaths) and net migration (immigration less emigration).

As the natural increase in the population is available from the Vital statistics, net migration can be calculated as the residual of the total population increase of 169,724 less natural increase of 198,282. Net migration over the five years therefore, is estimated to be -28,558. This compares with net inward migration of 115,800 over the previous five years.  

Users should note that net migration estimated in this way also incorporates the effect of non-migratory movements such as variations in the level of visitors in the State on census night or the number of Irish residents temporarily abroad. These factors, combined with the preliminary nature of these first estimates, mean users should treat this net migration estimate with caution until a greater level of analysis can be conducted on the final census results. In particular, an examination of the one year flows and a cohort analysis based on a number of key demographic variables such as age, gender and nationality is required before a more definitive picture of migration can be arrived at.

Figure 3 presents the components of inter-censal population change back to 1981 and shows that this most recent inter-censal period is the first time Ireland has experienced net outward migration between successive censuses since the 1991 census.

Intercensal PeriodNatural IncreaseNet migration Population Change

Figure 3 also illustrates the positive effect of natural increase on overall population change over time, in stark contrast to the large swings in net migration which has varied considerably over the 35 year period presented. The effect of migratory flows on the overall population change is also well illustrated.

Ireland experienced net outward migration throughout the 1980’s reaching a record low point of 44,000 in 1989. There was a slow turnaround to positive migration beginning in the early 1990’s followed by a sustained period of inward migration throughout the late 90’s. Strong immigration throughout the period 2000 to 2009 led to overall net inward migration throughout this period, peaking in 2007 with a net inflow of 105,000 in that year alone.

Rising emigration since 2008 has led to net outflows since 2010 resulting in an annual average outward migration of  -5,712 for the inter-censal period 2011 to 2016. This is in contrast to an annual average inflow of 24,977 during the previous inter-censal period of 2006 to 2011.

Interactive table: StatBank Link EP004

Net migration varies widely by county

By deducting the natural increase in the population at county level from the corresponding population change it is possible to derive county net migration figures. It is important to note that these figures represent not only the net movement of all persons into and out of the county from abroad but also the net movements between counties within Ireland. 

Given the overall net outward migration of -28,558 it is not surprising that the majority of counties experienced population loss to migration over the five year period 2011 to 2016, as illustrated in Map 3.

However the figures vary widely, from a low of -6,731 in Donegal to a high of 7,257 in Dublin City. Indeed Dublin City and Cork City (4,380), along with the administrative area of Dun Laoghaire Rathdown (4,066), were the only counties to experience net inflows of any meaningful amount, while Fingal (875), Laois (285), Longford (178) and Kilkenny (127) showed marginal increases.

All other areas experienced net outflows with Galway County (-3,168), Limerick County (-3,375) and Mayo (-3,246) also showing large losses, along with South Dublin (-4,271).

This map is © Ordnance Survey Ireland. All rights reserved. License number 01/05/001.


Interactive table: StatBank Link EP005

The scale of both natural increase and net migration per one thousand of the population for each county, relative to each other, is illustrated in Figure 4 below. The data for Ireland overall is represented by the green data point. Note: highlighting a selected area will enlarge that section of the graph and separate the overlapping data points.  

Cork City, with its relatively high net inward migration stands out with net migration increasing by more than 7 persons per 1,000 of the population. The next highest is Dun Laoghaire with 4 persons per 1,000 followed by Dublin City, which although it had the highest overall net inflows, increased by  3 persons per 1,000 of the population.

At the other end of the scale Donegal lost just over 8 people per 1,000 of the population to net migration, while Sligo lost just over 6 per 1,000.

Interactive Table: StatBank Link EP006

Fingal, with its relatively young population, had the highest level of natural increase, gaining an annual average of 15 persons per 1,000 of the population over the five years2. This was followed by South Dublin which gained 13 per 1,000, followed by the commuter belt counties of Kildare and Meath with 12 per 1,000. Cork City with its relatively older population had the lowest level of natural increase with 3 persons per 1,000 followed by Kerry with 4 per 1,000.

The data on natural increase is illustrated more clearly in Figure 5 below which shows not only rates per 1,000 in pale blue, but also total amounts which are shown in dark blue. 

Natural increase - Persons (Number)Average annual rates per 1,000 - Natural increase (Number)
Cork City20123.3
Limerick City15025.2
South Tipperary26375.9
Waterford County21146.3
Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown69476.6
North Tipperary23716.7
Dublin City182966.8
Galway County70928
Limerick County55288.1
Waterford City21339
Cork County196339.6
Galway City401210.4
South Dublin1776113.1


Sex ratio continues to fall

As the preliminary population data is captured for both males and females separately, the sex ratio of the population (males per 1,000 females) is available at State, regional and county level. The State figures are presented in Figure 6.

Having been positive for over twenty years from 1961 to 1981, the sex ratio began to decline steadily from 1986 onwards with fewer males than females in each census, reaching a low point in 1996 with 986 males for every 1,000 females. Strong inward migration, which favoured males over females, resulted in a reversal back to a positive ratio at the time of the 2006 census. It reversed again with the 2011 census which showed a large fall to 981 males per 1,000 females. The preliminary results from this census show a continuation of this trend with a further fall to 978 males per 1,000 females. 

Males per 1,000 females

2 The data for births and deaths relates to events registered in the five year period ended 31 March 2016. The figures for the first quarter of 2016 are provisional.