JUST one in seven of the workers hired to carry out the 2011 Census was previously on the dole after a plan to "discriminate" in their favour had to be abandoned.
The Central Statistics Office (CSO) was told the plan would breach the strict recruitment principles of "fairness, equality, openness and transparency" in operation in the public service.
According to the latest figures, just 740 out of the 4,866 people hired for the census enumerator positions said they had previously been on the live register -- around 15pc of the total.
The jobs are worth ¿2,200 over a 12-week period, with the pay linked to the number of census forms delivered and collected from households.
CSO spokeswoman Deirdre Cullen said the office had investigated the possibility of giving preference to people on the live register when it was preparing for the 2011 Census two years ago.
"It turned out that there's no mechanism to allow us to do that. We couldn't discriminate in favour of someone who's on the live register," she said.
Some 1,777 of the 4,866 part-time positions on offer -- or 36.5pc -- were given to people who already had a job.
There were 3,074 jobs given to people who said they were not in employment, but this figure includes housewives and retired people already on pensions.
The CSO also hired 490 full-time field managers.
Ms Cullen said many people came back again and again to carry out the census.
"A lot of them are housewives and retired people. If we get somebody who's done it for us twice already, they're going to score highly because they know the job and they know what's involved," she said.
Sinn Fein TD Caoimhghin O Caolain questioned the "fairness" of giving the census work to many people who already had jobs.
He said he had received many complaints from those who had unsuccessfully applied.
"We know of lots of people, equally competent, who have no employment and who would be delighted to get the opportunity for the period of the census operation. It's caused huge disappointment among people who were unemployed," he said.
The census will take place next Sunday night and will count all the people and households in the country on that night.
The CSO's budget for the census is ¿52m.
Mr O Caolain said he believed more could have been done to explore the possibility of keeping the census jobs for the 441,000 people on the dole.
"These are times when there are people out there who don't even have the dignity of occasional employment and, for their own self-respect, it's vital. They have not been accommodated," he said.
However, the CSO did make arrangements with the Department of Social Protection to allow people on the dole to keep claiming some of their social welfare benefits if they got a post as a census enumerator.