Saturday 26 May 2018

It's a numbers gain: a guide to Census 2016

Kathy Donaghy

The censuses of population are vital sources of information for anyone doing family history. For future generations, the Census of 2016, which will take place on Sunday, April 24, will act in the same way. But the census also helps provide vital information for today and in planning for the country's needs.

What is the Census?

The census is a detailed account of everybody who is in the country on census night. On the night of April 24, everybody in Ireland is required to enter their details on a census form.

When was the last Census?

The last census took place on the night of April 10, 2011.

Why do we have a Census?

The results of the census will provide valuable information on not only population size for the country as a whole but also about the make-up of the population of towns, villages and other small areas across the country.

As well as collecting information on the age and sex of population, a range of different questions relating to households and individuals are also asked such as where and what people work at, how people travel to work, school and college, languages spoken, disabilities, families, housing and lots more. All this information provides a detailed picture of how we live now and helps guide planning policy and decision making at local and national government level.

What is the Census used for?

At national level, population statistics are essential for planning for the provision of education, healthcare and employment. Regional figures are crucial for determining regional policy and for the operation of regional authorities.

The greatest strength of the census is the provision of detailed population figures at local level. These help to identify likely demand for schools and healthcare facilities, public transport needs, areas of high unemployment and the best location for new services.

Article 16.2 of the Constitution (Bunreacht na hÉireann) lays down that the total membership of Dáil Éireann depends on the population as measured by the census (1 TD per 20,000 to 30,000 persons).

Constituency reviews normally take place once the definitive results of the Census have been published.

The census is also the only means of accurately measuring the exact extent of migration. By comparing the results of successive censuses and taking account of the number of births and deaths that have occurred over the same period, we get an accurate measure of net migration (the difference between inward and outward migration).

Do I have to do it?

Yes. Everybody present in the country on census night must be included. This is the law. But it's in everyone's interest to be included. It means being included in Irish society and making sure you are taken account of in the decisions that will be made about our future. If you are not included, you are invisible and the knowledge we have about who we are will be wrong.

So what do I have to do?

Your census enumerator will have delivered your form to your dwelling sometime in the last 3-4 weeks. You should keep this form in a safe place until Census Day. On the night of April 24 you should complete the form in respect of each person in your household and sign the declaration at the end of the form when it's complete.

Your enumerator will call again in 2-3 weeks after Census Day to collect your form. They will also be able to help you if you have had any difficulty in completing the form. You may satisfy yourself of the identity of the enumerator by asking to see their ID.

What happens to my data?

All the forms are securely returned to Census HQ. Over the following months, each form is scanned and all the data you have provided in response to each of the census questions is recorded and checked. When all the data has been recorded, it is analysed to provide meaningful reports on a wide variety of statistics.

Do I have to give my name?

Yes, it is necessary to give your name to ensure that everyone in the household is included. Names may also assist in the identification of families within households.

How do you protect my data?

All the information you will provide on your census form is completely confidential. This is guaranteed by law.

When will the results be published?

Preliminary population data will be published within three months of Census Day. By the end of 2017, the full data will be available online.

Why are so many questions asked?

Every census includes questions on basic demographic and social topics such as age, sex, marital status, education, employment status and occupation. The census is a unique opportunity to gather valuable data and the Central Statistics Office (CSO) tries to maintain a balance between, on the one hand, the need for information and, on the other, minimising the burden on respondents. The household form contains questions relating to household characteristics and individuals. The responses to the questions provide important information on the quality of the housing stock.

Who carries out the Census?

The census is organised by the CSO which employs a temporary field force of nearly 5,200 people to carry out the census at local and regional level. Census forms are distributed to every household and communal establishment (eg hotels) by enumerators who also collect the completed forms. All census enumerators carry ID forms.

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