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CSO statistical publication, , 11am
Economic and Social Change in Ireland from 1973-2023

Charting some of the changes in Ireland’s economic and social history to mark 50 years of Ireland in the EU.

Migration in 2023

Emigration and immigration have played key roles in shaping the Ireland of today. Census 2022 put the population of Ireland at more than 5.1 million, its highest point in more than 171 years. Interestingly, the number of immigrants, or those entering the State in the year to April 2023, was estimated to be 141,600, while the number of emigrants, or those leaving the State, over the same period was estimated at 64,000. These combined flows gave positive net migration (more people arriving than leaving), of 77,600 in the year to April 2023, compared with 51,700 in the previous year.

The number of immigrants in the year to April 2023 was the highest since the year to April 2007 and consisted of 29,600 returning Irish nationals, 26,100 other EU nationals, 4,800 UK nationals, and 81,100 other nationals including Ukrainians.

Components of population change, 1970 – 2023

Figure 6.1 shows the two main components of population change, 1) natural change (dark blue line) and 2) net migration (green line) since 1970.

Over this period Ireland has seen sustained natural increase (more births and deaths) annually. Natural increase peaked in 2010 with just below 50,000 people and was at its lowest in 1994 with 16,600 people. Although natural increase is sustained it has been in steady decline since the peak in 2010.

While natural increase trends adapt in a steady pattern over time, this is not the case for net migration where trend changes year-on-year tend to be more volatile.

Figure 6.1 Components of Population Change, 1970 - 2023

1970s / 1980s

Generally, positive net migration can be observed in the 1970s with a peak of 20,000 people coming to Ireland in 1975. Over the 1970s cumulative positive net migration was just under 100,000 people indicating 100,000 more people arriving than leaving. A declining trend can be observed from the peak onwards to 1989. The 1980s were dominated with negative net migration, with more than 185,000 more people leaving than arriving in the 1980s.

Table 6.1 Components of Population Change, 1970 - 1989


An upturn in the net migration trend begins in 1990, however negative net migration can still be observed in all years (aside from 1992) until 1996. The remaining years of the 1990s show positive net migration. In the earlier half of the 1990s (1990 – 1994), there was negative net migration of 22,600 which indicates that approximately 23,000 more people departed the State than arrived. Positive net migration starts in 1996 and in the latter half of the decade (1995 – 1999), Ireland had positive net migration of 60,000 more people arriving than leaving.

Table 6.2 Components of Population Change, 1990 - 1999


The trend in net migration during this decade differs significantly when the beginning and end of the decade are assessed. An upward trend in positive net migration can be observed up to 2007 with significantly large increases in the years 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007, likely due to enlargement of the European Union. After the peak in 2007, there were huge drops in net migration up to 2010, when a return of negative net migration can be observed.

Table 6.3 Components of Population Change, 2000 - 2009


Net Migration was at its lowest point since the late 1980s in 2010, but since that point, an upward trend in net migration has been observed. The early part of the decade (2010-2014) saw just under 110,000 more people depart Ireland than arrive, this was likely due to the economic downturn. Net migration went from negative to positive between 2015 and 2016.

Table 6.4 Components of Population Change, 2010 - 2019


Net Migration has remained positive since 2015. COVID-19 and the aggression in Ukraine are two recent events that have caused an obvious shock to net migration figures since 2021. The impact of COVID-19 saw a significant drop in net migration between 2020 and 2021 (dropping from 44,700 to 21,800 people). The conflict in Ukraine has significantly impacted migration statistics across Europe.

In Ireland, an estimated 70,000 Ukrainian immigrants arrived in the year to April 2023. In fact, 2022 and the early part of 2023 saw two of the largest net migration figures since the period 2005 – 2008.  

Separate to the Population and Migration Estimates, the CSO also publishes a Frontier Series called Arrivals from Ukraine in Ireland, which provides insights into Ireland’s response to the Ukrainian crisis. This release includes an analysis of Ukrainian arrivals who are availing of support and services from the Department of Social Protection, school and further education enrolments, those that were administratively active after 31 March 2023, as well as information on barriers to work, previous and current employment, and education level attained.

Table 6.5 Components of Population Change, 2020 - 2023

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