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Population Changes

Population Changes

CSO statistical publication, , 11am
Census Results 2022 Branding
Census 2022 Results

This publication is part of a series of results from Census 2022. More thematic publications will be published throughout 2023 as outlined in the Census 2022 Publication Schedule.

Census 2022 was the 26th census held since 1841. It counted the number of people present in Ireland on Sunday, 03 April 2022. The census information allows us to understand the changes in Ireland’s population at national and county level since the census was last held in 2016. We can also identify the two elements which have contributed to population changes, the number of births minus the number of deaths (natural increase) and the number of immigrants minus the number of emigrants (net migration).

Population Change

Census 2022 marked the first time in 171 years that the population of Ireland surpassed 5 million people. After a constant decline since 1851, Ireland's population recorded its lowest level in 1961 when it stood at 2,818,341. It then began to increase again and, in 2022, was 83% higher than 61 years previously.   

  • On Census Night, Sunday, 03 April 2022, the population of Ireland was 5,149,139.
  • The figure increased by 387,274 people since April 2016.
  • This represents total growth of 8.1% over the six years since Census 2016, or an annual average increase of 1.3%.
  • In the previous intercensal period, 2011 to 2016, the total growth was 3.8%, or an annual average increase of 0.7%.
Figure 1.1 Population at each census, 1841 to 2022
Table 1.1 Population, actual and percentage change, 2006 to 2022

Components of Population Change

Population change is driven by natural increase (births minus deaths) and net migration (immigration minus emigration).  

  • Between 2016 and 2022, Ireland's population increased by 387,274.

  • Natural increase made up 167,487 of the change. The estimate for net migration therefore is 219,787.

  • This represents an annual average increase of almost 65,000 people.

  • While this growth is higher than the annual average population increase in the previous intercensal period (2011 to 2016), greater average yearly increases were recorded in the census periods 2002 to 2006 and 2006 to 2011.

  • The growth in annual average estimated net migration (36,631) was larger than the annual average natural increase (27,915) between 2016 and 2022. 

  • This contrasts with the previous two censuses when natural increases accounted for more of the population growth.

Figure 1.2 Components of population change (average annual figures) for each intercensal period, 1981 to 2022

County Population Changes

Every county recorded population growth between 2016 and 2022. The data collected during Census 2022 shows that all counties experienced both natural increase and positive estimated net migration in the six years since the previous census. 

  • Increases in population since 2016 ranged from 5% in Donegal, Kilkenny and Tipperary to 14% in Longford.

  • Population growth tended to be stronger in the east of the country with Meath growing by 13%, followed by Fingal (12%) and Kildare (11%).

  • Population changes by county show that Fingal had the largest natural increase (19,183), followed by Cork (county and city combined) (17,218).

  • Leitrim (770) and Sligo (1,373) were the counties with the smallest natural increases.

  • Estimated net migration ranged from 1,847 in Monaghan to 24,070 in Cork (county and city combined).

Map 1.1 Percentage change of population since the previous census by county and city, 2022
Table 1.2 Components of population change by county and city, 2016 to 2022

Annual Average Changes by County

Average annual changes per thousand people at county level provide insight into changes relative to the county size. These changes could be spread evenly over the period between 2016 and 2022 or could be more concentrated in certain years. 

  • At 11 people per 1,000 of the population between 2016 and 2022, Fingal recorded the highest annual average natural increase, which is the difference between births and deaths.

  • The next highest were Kildare, South Dublin and Meath, all recording 9 people per 1,000.

  • Kerry and Mayo had the lowest annual average natural increase with 3 people per 1,000.

  • The highest average annual net inward migration was recorded for Longford at 17 people per 1,000 of the population from 2016 to 2022.

  • The counties with the lowest annual average net migration include Kilkenny and Tipperary, both at 4 people per 1,000.

Map 1.2 Average annual rates per 1,000 - natural increase and estimated net migration - by county and city, 2022

Age and Sex Composition

The census question on date of birth builds a picture of Ireland’s age profile, giving insight on relative growth and decline among various age cohorts over time. The census sex question generates information on the relative size of the male and female populations. 

  • The population includes 2,544,549 males and 2,604,590 females.

  • With 60,041 more females than males in the State in April 2022, the sex ratio fell slightly to 97.7 in 2022 compared with 97.8 in 2016.

  • The pyramid below shows peaks for people aged in their early 40s and pre-teen years.

  • This reflects high birth rates in the early 1980s and 2010s.

  • Births declined each year between 2010 and 2020 but increased again in 2021.

  • The number of children aged under 10 declined compared with 2016.

  • The fall was greater among females (15% decline) than among males (14%).

  • There was a 4% fall in the number of people aged 25 to 39.

  • The highest increase in population was seen among the over 70s.

  • The number of people aged 85 years and over increased by 25%.

Figure 1.3 Population by single year of age and sex, 2011 to 2022

Average Age

The average age of the population increased from 37.4 years in 2016 to 38.8 years in 2022. In the 11 years between 2011 and 2022, the average age increased by 2.7 years and by 3.7 years since 2002.

  • The average age was 38.2 years for males and 39.4 for females.

  • Fingal, Kildare and Meath continued to be the counties with the youngest age on average.

  • Mayo, Kerry, Roscommon and Leitrim had the oldest populations.

  • All counties recorded an increase in average age between 2016 and 2022.

  • The county recording the largest growth in average age was Kildare; its average age rose by 2 years.

Map 1.3 Average age of population by county and city, 2011 to 2022
Table 1.3 Average age of population by sex and county and city, 2011 to 2022

Age Dependency

Age dependency is a ratio calculated by comparing the proportion of people both under 15 and over 64 years with the working age population, which is defined here as those between 15 and 64 years of age. Young dependency is a ratio of the number of people aged under 15 compared with the working age population. The old dependency ratio compares the number of people aged over 64 with the working age population.

  • The total dependency ratio increased from 52.7 in 2016 to 53.2 in 2022.

  • Young dependency decreased to 30.1, but old dependency increased to 23.1 as the number of older people grew.

  • The number of people aged between 15 and 64 years increased by 242,791 (8%).

  • The category aged 0 to 14 years experienced marginal growth of 5,735, but the number of people aged 65 years and over increased by 138,748 (22%).

  • At 64% in both Leitrim and Mayo, overall age dependency was high in the West and North-West.

  • Age dependency was markedly lower in Dublin City (39.5) and Galway City (39.2).

Map 1.4 Age dependency ratio by county and city, 2011 to 2022
Table 1.4 Age dependency ratio by sex, 2011 to 2022