How Census shapes society

A comprehensive and accurate census is in all our interests. The census results are important to every person and community in Ireland. They provide vital information needed to plan for the delivery of essential services such as health, education and transport. 

Results are made available on topics such as age, education, health, employment, language(s) spoken, and so on. This information can then be used to identify and respond to the needs of our communities, our counties and our country. They can also help us to better understand and meet the needs of specific groups in our society, such as different age groups, socio-economic groups and ethnic groups. 

The results are freely available to all and are widely used by individuals and groups across all parts of Irish society. Local and national Government, other public bodies, local and national representative and interest groups, businesses, academics, researchers and students all use census results in their daily activities. 

The Central Statistics Office is grateful to the organisations below for these case studies on their use of the census results in their work. 

COPE Galway

COPE Galway has worked with some of Galway’s most vulnerable residents for over 40 years.  We have learned that apart from providing services in response to people’s immediate needs, it is vital we advocate for systemic change to challenge chronic cycles of disadvantage. This requires good research and reliable data.   As a regional charity reliant on fundraising to meet funding shortfalls this restricts our capacity to commission our own research, in order to advocate for change we look for reliable data in other places. 

For example, when making our pre-budget submission for Budget 2022, recommending how it should distribute resources, we used census data in relation to fossil fuel usage to highlight our concerns regarding older people’s vulnerability to increases in carbon taxes. When providing a submission in relation to Ireland’s draft State report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, census figures in relation to family make-up were important in framing our input. Census data is vital in ensuring that when we provide input in terms of future planning and direction our input is based on accurate data.

Arts Council – ‘Mapping your audience’ tool using Census data

The Arts Council of Ireland is the Irish government agency for developing the arts. We work in partnership with artists, arts organisations, public policy makers and others to build a central place for the arts in Irish life. We have found census data an essential and valuable resource in informing and shaping our corporate policies and strategies, but most particularly in allowing us to work developmentally with the arts sector in Ireland.

There is a dynamic and vibrant network of arts centres, galleries and theatres across Ireland.  In our towns and cities people create and engage with the arts because of, and within, these places.  The Arts Council and local authorities play an important role in offering public subsidy to these places so they can survive and thrive. We also invest a lot of work in supporting their growth and development. 

Arts audiences are the lifeblood of any arts venue. To continue to be vibrant and energetic hubs in towns across Ireland, they need to be engaging proactively with all our citizens. Having access to accurate data and expert knowledge about potential audiences and arts participants they can be working with and for is critical to that. To assist venues in this, the Arts Council commissioned the All-Island Research Observatory (AIRO) to develop an interactive web-tool using Census 2016 data. 

This Mapping your Audience tool allows arts centres to easily access detailed demographic information about the people living in their vicinity. Picking from a suite of Census 2016 indicators – for example, age, gender, ethnicity, nationality, disability – the arts centres can get an accurate picture of the different demographic groups that live within easy reach (10 minutes’ drive-time) of their buildings. 

For example, Draíocht Arts Centre in Blanchardstown can see that there are over 38,000 children under the age of 14 years living within 10 minutes’ drive of their facility, who could be availing of their wide-ranging programme of activities for children and young people.  The tool also offers different percentages which can be matched on a comparison chart with national averages as per the census. So for example, the Town Hall Theatre in Galway can see that over 25% of the population within a 10-minute drive are of other nationalities, compared to the national percentage of 17%, and this can influence their programming in making it as relevant as possible for citizens in their catchment area.

The tool has proved invaluable for arts providers across the country in knowing better who their potential audiences can be; who they can target for particular programmes and opportunities; making sure they are reaching potential audiences by looking at the statistics alongside their own box-office data; and to inform their planning and strategies to ensure they are offering a relevant and balanced programme for all people living within their jurisdictions. The particular advantage of this information coming directly from Census findings is that we are able to update the tool with the most recent accurate live picture and we look forward to doing this with the findings of the Census 2022. 

Picture of an empty auditorium with rows of seats

Photo Credit: Maurice Gunning – View from the Stage (Lime Tree Theatre, Limerick 2012)

Love Drogheda Business Improvement District, The Mill Enterprise Centre and the Chamber of Commerce

Photo Credit: Thanks to the groups below for the use of this this photograph

In January 2020, a collaboration of Business groups (Love Drogheda Business Improvement District, The Mill Enterprise Centre and the Chamber of Commerce) in Drogheda commissioned a deep dive into the CSO census figures to identify the breakdown of employees in our town and region.  

We wanted to clearly identify who lived and worked within a 15-minute and a 30-minute catchment zone. Previously, we had estimated that between 6,000 and 8,000 of those living in the area commuted outwards for employment purposes. Utilising CSO data we discovered that we had 14,992 residents who commuted outwards for employment purposes with 10,042 of that figure working in Fingal and North Dublin.  

CSO data helped us to breakdown the professional status (47% Employers, Managers or Professionals) and the skills (60% 3rd level educated) that left our local region on a daily basis, 24% of which are employed in ICT sector. 

Using the CSO data as a baseline, we have conducted two follow up Commuter and Remote worker surveys with the first survey completing in February 2020 (pre- pandemic) that identified level of commute. This data captured information relating to time of departure to length of commute with over 50% of our respondents noting their commute was higher than 60 minutes each way, which is an additional working week per month. 

We followed this up with an additional survey in 2021 (approximately 800 respondents) that helped us to understand how people were adapting to the new working procedures. We had found initially that while many companies had been hesitant to support remote working noting barriers to change, the pandemic forced this change. 

Our focus in collecting and collating the information is to help assist organisations in making informed decisions, this has included sharing the information with the IDA relating to localised skills. Additionally, the CSO figures together with our survey data has been used in successful grant applications to identify needs requirements for co-working and remote working hubs.  

The census also confirmed that we were the largest town and fastest growing town – this gave us great data to revert to local, regional, and national agencies on enterprise / tourism / government plans and highlight that we need to plan for continued growth. 

Some interesting findings from our survey … 

  • additional data from our survey indicated that over 37% of those surveyed spent over €3,000 commuting (pre-2020).
  • 80% of those surveyed were extremely interested in working locally and were willing to take up 14% pay cut (pre pandemic) 
  • 65% of those surveyed left for work prior to 7:30AM. This indicated an impact in quality of life.

DCU National Centre for Family Business 

In 2020, the CSO provided the National Centre for Family Business (NCFB) at Dublin City University (DCU) with data that has been crucial to our understanding of the role and impact of family businesses in Ireland. This data has provided critical insights into the contribution of family businesses to the Irish economy, society, and communities. Thanks to this CSO census data, we now know that 64 per cent of all firms in Ireland are family-owned and these businesses employ 938,000 people. The NCFB published a report about the impact of family businesses in Ireland where we let the numbers speak. 

Established in 2013, the DCU NCFB is a leading international research centre dedicated to rigorous and relevant research on family business. Since launching the ‘Irish Family Business by Numbers’ report, the NCFB introduced two new programmes at DCU Business School focused solely on family business education – one at undergraduate level and a second at executive education level. Many of the students on these programmes come from, and work with, family businesses across Ireland and internationally.

Cover of the report titled "Irish Family Business by Numbers"

Celbridge Community Council

Celbridge Community Council is a strong advocate for sustainable transport and welcomes any enhancements to public transport for Celbridge residents.

Therefore, it was critical that we could underpin our submission to the National Transport Authority’s BusConnects Network Design with evidence-based information and the Central Statistics Office was instrumental in supplying this information.

Equally the CSO information informed Desire Lines or Pathways along which public transport might operate.

We used data from CSO’s 2016 Commuting Data File, and we are so grateful and delighted that a very significant and authoritative source of Governmental information was freely available to us.

Chief Fire Officers Association 

Fire Authorities using Fire Safety Campaigns to improve Fire Safety in the Home target specific geographic areas based on local knowledge. This can be through interested community groups, voluntary bodies and can be based on risk such as distance from Fire Stations, age profile, etc.  While this can and does have a positive effect on individual households visited, more targeted initiatives with the detailed type of data that can be extracted from the census outputs would undoubtedly improve Fire Authorities efforts towards the safety of the public in their homes.

The inclusion of a question relating to the number of working smoke alarms in accommodation would be of particular benefit in identifying the demographic most at risk from undetected domestic fires. This would help targeted interventions aimed at reducing fire deaths and injuries to be implemented both nationally and by individual Fire Authorities. 

The objective in gathering the data will be to inform Fire Authorities of the current situation to allow us to devise campaigns and to create a more proactive fire safety conscious community.  Using both predictive and prescriptive analysis of the data that will be extracted from the census outputs, trends and patterns can be identified allowing for tailored Fire Safety campaigns to continue to improve fire safety in the home.  It will also allow us to examine the success/failure of past campaigns, and to build on these into the future in order to alleviate concerns before they occur. 

Photo Credit: Chief Fire Officers Association