Ireland’s population has reached its highest point in 170 years and could be set to pass the 5m mark as early as next year.
The latest Population and Migration Estimates report from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) shows the population of Ireland increased by 64,500, bringing the overall total to 4.92m as of the end of April this year.
It is the result of positive net migration and a sustained natural increase, according to CSO statistician, James Hegarty.
Ireland’s usually resident population is now estimated to be 4,921,500. This is the highest point the population has been since the census of 1851, when it was recorded at 5.1m. By the time of the 1861 census, it had dropped to 4.4m as a result of mass emigration in the decades after the famine of the 1840s.
The report notes 88,600 people immigrated to Ireland in the year ending April 2019. This is a slight decline from the previous 12 months when the figure was 90,300.
Of those to immigrate this year, almost one-third — 26,900 (30.4%) — were returning Irish nationals.
However, of the 54,900 people who emigrated from Ireland in the year ending April 2019, more than half —29,000 — were Irish nationals. As such, there was a decline of 2,100 in the number of Irish nationals in Ireland.
In comparison, there was a net increase of non-Irish nationals of 35,800 in the year ending April 2019. This now means non-Irish nationals represent 12.7% of the population, some 622,700.
The number of births recorded in the year ending April was 61,200, while the number of deaths was 30,400. This resulted in a natural population increase of 30,800.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “Ireland’s population now approaching 5m. More people living, working, and raising families in Ireland than at any point since independence. Our people are our greatest strength.”
All regions are deemed to have a population increase, though Dublin remains the largest growth region.
Dublin now has a population of almost 1.4m, accounting for more than 28% of the entire population of Ireland. This increased by 1.8% in the last 12 months.
In comparison, the population of the mid-west increased by just 0.5% or 2,600 people.
Ireland’s population growth is significantly faster than many of our European neighbours, according to economist Austin Hughes.
“[The population estimates] show population growth of 1.3%, which is just over six times the 0.2% increase in the EU 28,” he said.
“It should be noted that Ireland’s population growth is the third fastest in the EU after Malta (+3.8%) and Luxembourg (+2.0%). However, both of those countries figures are swollen by rapid net inward migration.
“In contrast, Irish population growth of 64.5k in 2019 is broadly balanced between net inward migration of 33.7k and a 30.8k ‘natural’ increase.”
There were 45,000 more jobs in Ireland at the end of June than at the same point in 2018, according to the latest Labour Force Survey from the Central Statistics Office.
The report shows total employment here is now 2.3m. The growth in jobs has been cautiously welcomed by economists, but the spectre of Brexit remains a likely threat in the coming months.
The survey shows there was an annual increase of 2% —or 45,000 jobs — in the year ending June 2019. It was a slight decline from the year ending in March 2019, which saw an increase of 3.7%.
Employment increased in 11 of the 14 economic sectors it tracks. The largest percentage rises were in transportation and storage (up 8.6%) and education (up 7.8%). The declines were recorded in agriculture, forestry and fishing (down 4.7%), and professional, scientific and technical activities (down 1.4%), and there was no change in construction.
Paschal Donohoe, the finance minister, said it is a positive development in the face of Brexit that “we have more people working in Ireland than ever before”.
“We have now 2.3m people working in our economy and the analysis from the CSO points out that this growth is taking place across many different parts of our economy,” he said.
The fact that growth was stronger in the year to the end of Q1 2019 is not a cause for concern as that was driven by “exceptionally strong figures” and the economy is “performing very well” from an employment point of view, he said.