The population is continuing to grow despite continued high levels of emigration, the first results from the 2016 Census show.

However, the increase, which brings the total headcount to 4,757,976, is unbalanced across the country with numbers growing much more rapidly in the east and some counties in the west undergoing a decline.

There is also a growing gender imbalance, with the number of males falling to 978 for every 1,000 females — lower than the previous low point of 986 per 1,000 recorded in 1996.

Brendan Murphy, statistician with the Central Statistics Office said there was an overall population increase of 3.7% since the previous Census in 2011 but the results varied widely across the country.

“We had a low of -1.5% in Donegal in terms of population change, and the highest increase was in Fingal at over 8%,” he said.

“There is an east-west divide in terms of population growth and population decline or stagnation.”

The fastest-growing area was Dublin and its commuter belt, outside of which Cork showed the highest growth. Mayo and Sligo joined Donegal in losing population.

Total population increased despite a complete reversal in migration trends, with 28,558 more people leaving the country between 2011-2016 than came to live here. In the five years up to 2011, 115,800 more people came to live in Ireland than left the country.

A natural increase in the population — meaning more births than deaths — of 198,282 more than made up for the losses to emigration, however, leaving an actual increase in headcount of 169,724 compared to 2011.

Again, there were wide variations in migration figures across the country from county to county, ranging from -6,731 in Donegal to 7,257 in Dublin City.

Big inflows were recorded in Cork City (4,380) and Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown (4,380), while substantial outflows were experienced in Galway county (-3,168), Limerick county (-3,375), Mayo (-3,246) and South Dublin (-4,271).

In terms of natural gain, Fingal, with its relatively young population, topped the list, gaining an average of 15 people per 1,000 of its population each year over the five years, while Cork City, with its relatively older population, had the lowest natural increase, gaining just three people per 1,000.

Business groups urged the Government to plan for the needs of the growing population. Mark O’Mahoney of Chambers Ireland said: “There will be increased pressure on State resources over the coming years. It is crucial that Government prioritises increases in capital investment in the short term to ensure that our housing, transport and education infrastructure can cope.”

Ibec called for measures to reinvigorate the Atlantic seaboard economy. Ibec chief Danny McCoy said: “Economic activity continues to gravitate toward the capital. It is creating a worrying economic and social imbalance. A new Atlantic cities strategy is needed.”

The results are the first to emerge from the massive number-crunching exercise that began 12 weeks ago following Census night on April 24. Other findings relating to religion, ethnicity, education levels, language proficiency and transport habits will be released on a phased basis throughout 2017.

Deirdre Cullen, CSO senior statistician, said compliance with the Census was high.

“A small number of people did refuse to co-operate with the Census and we will be taking prosecutions,” said Mr Cullen.

In cases where the occupants of properties could not be contacted, households were quantified by estimated. Ms Cullen said these represented fewer than 1% of total dwellings.

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