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Age, Sex, and Geographical Distribution

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Proportion of people living in each area type rose between 2011 and 2016, except in ‘Highly rural/remote areas’

Between 2011 and 2016 the population of Ireland increased by 3.6%, rising from 4.53 to 4.69 million people, (see Table 2.1).

There were 2,935,629 people in urban areas in 2016, an increase of 135,609 people (4.8%) since 2011. There was a smaller increase of 1.7% (29,031) in the population of rural areas over the same time period.

The proportion of people living in ‘Highly rural/remote areas’ dropped by 0.6% between 2011 and 2016 but the proportions living in all other areas increased over this time period, with the largest rise of 5.5% in ‘Independent urban towns’.

Show Table: 2.1 Change in distribution 2011 - 2016

Local authorities by proportion of population in each area type 

More than half the population of both Kildare (56.2%) and Wicklow (55.0%) were living in ‘Satellite urban towns’ in 2016. About two-thirds of the people (66.9%) in Louth lived in ‘Independent urban towns’ while 47.6% of residents of Galway County lived in ‘Rural areas with high urban influence’, (see Table 2.2).

Leitrim had the highest proportion of people living in ‘Highly rural/remote areas’ in 2016 at 69.1%, followed by Donegal at 41.4%.

Show Table: 2.2 Population distribution by local authority and six way area classification 2016

Difference in age distribution between urban and rural areas

The population pyramids below (Figure 2.1) show the number of males and females in each single year of age in each of the six urban and rural areas. All these pyramids show a similar pattern to that for the State but there are differences between the types of area.

There are also differences in the average age of each area. ‘Highly rural/remote areas’ had the highest average age at 41.2 years in 2016 while ‘Satellite urban towns’ had the lowest at 34.5, (see Table 2.3).

The average age increased across all six area types between 2011 and 2016 which reflects an aging population. The highest increase in average age was in ‘Highly rural/remote areas’, which rose by 1.6 years over this time period, from 39.6 to 41.2.

The age breakdown of the six classification area types can be seen by clicking an option below:

Show Table: 2.3 Average age by six - way area classification

More men than women in rural areas

Figure 2.2 gives an insight into the number of males per 100 females for each listed age group across each of the six area types. The shorter the line overall, the fewer men per women in that area.

For instance, in 2016 in the 25 to 44 age category 'Highly rural/remote areas' had the highest ratio of men to women with a sex ratio of 98.5.

0 - 14 years15 - 24 years25 - 44 years45 - 64 years65 years and over
Cities 2011104.799.297.393.074.6
Cities 2016104.2101.996.993.778.6
Satellite urban towns 2011104.8100.093.897.081.1
Satellite urban towns 2016104.4103.990.796.384.2
Independent urban towns 2011103.897.296.396.976.0
Independent urban towns 2016104.0101.693.197.080.3
Rural areas with high urban influence 2011106.0108.198.9105.593.3
Rural areas with high urban influence 2016105.4109.395.4103.496.0
Rural areas with moderate urban influence 2011104.8106.3102.0107.194.8
Rural areas with moderate urban influence 2016105.3107.098.0104.997.8
Highly rural/remote areas 2011104.8106.9103.2107.494.3
Highly rural/remote areas 2016105.1107.398.5103.198.4
State 2011104.8101.897.799.683.3
State 2016104.6104.395.498.787.1

Age dependency highest in rural and remote areas, and lowest in cities

Dependents are defined as people outside the working ages of 15 to 64. Dependency ratios are used to give an indication of the age structure of a population, with young (0-14) and old (65+) people shown as a percentage of the population of working age. The total dependency ratio is the sum of the young and old ratios.

‘Cities’ had the lowest total dependency ratios in 2016 at 45.9, more than 6 percentage points lower than the State ratio of 53.2, (see Table 2.4).

‘Highly rural/remote areas’ had the highest total dependency ratio of 63.5 in 2016. This area type also had the greatest rise in the dependency ratio between 2011 and 2016 with an increase of 5.6 percentage points.

In 2016 'Highly rural/remote areas' had the closest ratio of young to older dependents, with one elderly dependent person for every 1.03 young dependents. Conversely, in 'Satellite urban towns' there was 2.6 dependent children for every one dependent elderly person.

Show Table: 2.4 Population by age group and age dependency ratio by six - way area classification

X-axis labelYoung dependencyOld dependency
Satellite urban towns38.314.7
Independent urban towns34.620
Rural areas with high urban influence36.621
Rural areas with moderate urban influence35.125
Highly rural/remote areas32.231.3

'Rural areas with high urban influence' have the highest proportion of people born in Ireland

There were 4.69 million usual residents present in the State in April 2016, and 810,406 (17.3%) were born outside Ireland, (see Table 2.5). The proportion born outside the State varied across the six area types, from just 10.5% in ‘Rural areas with high urban influence’ to 21.6% in ‘Independent urban towns’.

The UK was the main place of birth for those born outside Ireland in all area types, with 5.9% of Irish residents born in the UK. This proportion ranged from 4.2% of people in ‘Cities’ to 10.1% in ‘Highly rural/remote areas’.

The next most frequent place of birth outside the State was Poland and 2.5% of the 2016 population were born there. The lowest percentage of people born in Poland was 0.7% in both ‘Rural areas with high urban influence’ and ‘Rural areas with moderate urban influence’ while the highest percentage was 4.8% in ‘Independent urban towns’.

Show Table: 2.5 Place of birth by 6-way area classification

CitiesSatellite urban townsIndependent urban townsRural areas with high urban influenceRural areas with moderate urban influenceHighly rural/remote areas
Other EU2847.61622.35.94.14
Other Europe5216.718.863.62.8
Other countries59.310.812.

View tables on Statbank