The Census of Population is a detailed count of every person living in the State on a particular date, including people who are not usually resident here.
It takes place every 5 years and is carried out by the Central Statistics Office (CSO). The next census will be taken on Sunday 24 April 2016. The previous census was in April 2011.
Under Sections 26 and 27 of the Statistics Act 1993, there is a legal obligation to complete the census form.
The Census of Population establishes the size of the population in the State. Up-to-date population statistics are essential to help to plan for services to meet demand for healthcare and education, for example. Detailed figures at local level help to identify areas of high unemployment and deprivation as well as the likely demand for local services and facilities.
The census also helps to provide an accurate measure of net migration (the difference between inward and outward migration).
Article 16.2 of the Constitution lays down that the total membership of Dáil Éireann depends on the population as measured by the census. There must be one TD for each 20,000 to 30,000 persons. A Constituency Commission must be set up to review Dáil and European Parliament constituencies once the preliminary results of the census have been published.
Teams of enumerators deliver census forms to every household and to every other type of place where people may be present on census night (such as hotels, guesthouses, hospitals, ships). Everyone who is actually on the premises in census night, including visitors, should be counted.
You should also enter the details (on List 2) of anyone who usually lives there but is away on census night. If there will be nobody at all present on that night, the enumerator gives you a different form (Form E) to sign.
The questionnaire includes such topics as age, marital status, sex, place of birth, principal economic status, occupation and industry, and housing characteristics.
All the information that you give on the census form is confidential. The CSO only uses it for statistical purposes. Your name and address are not entered on any computer database, and no other organisation (including government departments or agencies) can access information from the census that would identify a household or a person in any way.
Census enumerators call to all households to deliver forms by census night and they call back to collect completed forms over the following couple of weeks.
Enumerators all carry ID, which you can ask to see if you wish. They can help with any queries about the census form. They can also help if you have difficulty completing the form.
When you have completed the form on census night, sign the declaration at the end of the form and keep it safe until your enumerator calls back to collect it. If nobody at all is present on census night, you should have Form E instead of the census form.
The 2016 census form
You can view a sample copy of the census form (pdf) and a list of the questions, together with detailed explanations. There are no new questions in 2016, but the question on marital status has been updated to include registered same-sex civil partnerships.
The form will be available in English and Irish versions.
The results of Census 2011 and earlier censuses are published on the CSO’s website cso.ie. The total population was recorded as 4,582,252 in 2011, representing an increase of 348,404 persons (8.2%) since 2006.
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.