Census to include state of health
People will have to reveal the state of their health in a census form for the first time.
The answers will be used to provide an overview of the health of the nation.
Households will receive the Census 2011 questionnaire over the next three weeks and are legally obliged to complete and return it.
Newly-appointed Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe said it was important that everyone in the State is included in the study.
"This is a very important time for Ireland. As a society we are faced now with making crucial decisions about our future and it is imperative that we have accurate and objective information on which to base those decisions," Mr Kehoe said.
"The census is the most comprehensive and valuable of these information sources. It is critical therefore that everyone in the State on Census Night is included in preparing this accurate and up-to-date picture of Ireland."
Census enumerators will begin delivering forms to households from tomorrow and on Census night, April 10, residents will be asked to answer questions ranging from religion to education, marital status and the type of accommodation they are living in.
Aidan Punch, Central Statistics Office assistant director general, said it would pursue people who fail to take part in the study, with dodgers facing a fine of up to €25,000.
"If a person goes out of their way to deliberately flout the Census, and say we don't want to participate, we'll pursue them in court if we have to," Mr Punch said.
The CSO said the answers from the health question, where people will be asked to rate their health from "Very Good" to "Very Bad", will provide a picture of the health of the country and how it is related to various factors such as age.
For the first time households will also be asked what other languages are spoken in the home.
The information will be used to target state resources in education and health to support people who have difficulties with English.
There is also a new question for carers aged under 15.
It is estimated the form will take 30 minutes to complete and enumerators will pick them up within three weeks of Census Night.
Mr Punch said questions are devised in consultation with a range of lobby groups, including those representing carers and the disabled.
Gerry O'Hanlon, director general of the Central Statistics Office, stressed the information will be kept confidential and not shared with any other government department or agency.
"The Census information is strictly confidential and will be used for statistical purposes only - this is guaranteed by law," he said.
Some 5,000 enumerators will deliver and collect the forms over the 10-week period. They are being paid €2,200 each.
A translation of the census form is available in 21 languages for those whose first language is not English, including Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese, Czech, Estonian, French, German, Russian, Slovak, and Swahili.
The document is also available in large print and Braille.
Census 2011 will be the 24th time the nationwide survey has been carried out. The last Census was held in 2006.
Preliminary results will be available within three months, and principal demographic results within a year.