Wednesday 17 January 2018

Rural areas ageing as young flock to the cities

Dependency on the rise as more people now not of a working age

Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Ireland's population is ageing, with a sharp rise in the number of people aged 65 and older, new Census data reveals.

The number of people entering their retirement years has increased by 102,000, or 19.1pc, to 637,000 over the last five years, at a time when the average age nationally stands at 37.4 years, up 16 months compared with 2011.

The data from the 'Age Profile in Ireland' report, the latest publication from April 2016's Census, sets out the challenge for the Government as it grapples with an increasingly urban population where the youth flock to the cities and towns for education and job opportunities and the age profile of rural Ireland grows older.

It paints a stark picture of the difference between the counties, with the average age in Kerry and Mayo almost 10 years older than Fingal, the country's youngest administrative area.

"The difference in average age between rural and urban areas increased between 2011 and 2016," it says. "In 2016, the average age of the population living in rural areas was 2.4 years older than the population in urban areas, compared to a difference of 1.9 years in 2011."

It adds that rural counties such as Leitrim, Galway, Donegal and Roscommon tend to have fewer young adults and proportionally more older people. Women in their 20s are more likely to have moved into towns and cities than men, and there are more males than females in rural counties.

"The decline in persons aged 19 to 25 in rural areas, as young adults move away to study and work, is a strong feature of the rural population," it says.

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The findings will place pressure on the Government to tackle a two-tier Ireland and rural depopulation, where younger people are forced to leave their home counties in search of opportunities.

The youngest administrative areas are in Fingal, Kildare, Meath and South Dublin, while the oldest are Kerry and Mayo on the western seaboard.

In addition, four of the five youngest large towns with populations of 10,000 or more are in the Greater Dublin Area, while just one part of the capital - Malahide - places in the top five oldest urban areas, most likely due to high house prices which limited the ability of younger people to buy.

While the population has become steadily older since the 1980s, with 37.2pc now aged 45 and over, compared with 27.6pc in 1986, it also finds that age dependency is on the rise.

This metric measures the number of younger people aged 0 to 14 and older people aged 65 and above as a percentage of those of working age. It rose from 49.3pc in 2011 to 52.7pc last year.

This places pressure on the Government to finance public services, as the number of people working and paying tax falls. That can result in pressure on the public finances, and unless addressed will likely lead to higher tax rates.

Over the five-year intercensal period, the numbers aged 65 and over rose by 102,000, more than twice that of the working-age category, which increased by 44,477.

Interestingly, the number of older people remaining in the family home is on the rise. In 2011, some 94pc of those aged 65 and older were at home, which has increased to 94.7pc. This is reflected in the over-85s also.

Reflecting the housing crisis and shortage of homes available for purchase, the Census data also shows that the number of children living in rented accommodation has risen. The low birth rate during the early 1990s has also impacted on the population of young adults, which fell by 6.5pc. The smallest increase in average age was in Cork and Dublin cities, both major centres of employment.

Irish Independent

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