Information Society Statistics – The Regional Picture

The CSO has recently published statistics on household use of the internet, measuring various aspects of the information society. Given the significant importance of the National Broadband Plan, aimed at delivering better internet access for all, especially those in rural areas, it is useful to examine the regional dimension of the Information Society Statistics, see here for the link to the CSO publication.

Household Internet Connectivity

In 2019, 91% of households have an internet connection, an increase of two percentage points since 2018. The regions with the lowest percentage of households with internet access are the Border (84%), the Midlands (85%), the West (89%) and South East (89%).  Some regions, such as the Border, have reported a slight decline in the rate between 2018 and 2019. It is not clear why this is the case, discussions with the CSO suggest it could be due to sampling and the fact that different households are selected each year, see note 1 below.

Type of Broadband Connection

The type of broadband connection also varies by region. Fixed broadband connection is highest in the Dublin region at 92%, compared with the Border and Midland regions, at 71% and 69% respectively. Narrowband connection is most prevalent in the Midlands, see table below.

Frequency of Internet Usage

Across the State the internet is used ‘everyday or almost everyday’ by 79% of individuals. The percentage rises to 85% in the Dublin region and the lowest rates are found in the Border (68%), the South-East (73%) and the West (75%).

Examining infrequency of internet use, nationally 12% of individuals ‘didn’t use it in the last 3 months’ and this rate rises to 19% in the Border region and 16% in the South-West and Mid-East. The CSO notes that frequency of use is related to age and principal economic status so that the younger age categories and students access the internet most frequently while those who are older and retired access it least frequently. The Border and West regions also have a higher age profile, especially in rural areas and this contributes to the higher rates among those who ‘didn’t use it in the last 3 months’ in these regions.

Types of Internet Activities

The CSO asked what type of internet activities were carried out by individuals in 2019. The

most popular activities were ’Finding information on goods and services’ and ‘email’ (sending and receiving emails), both at 84%. The Border region (73% using email) and the Mid-East (76% finding information on goods and services), reported the lowest rates in these types of internet activity.

Examining the use of the internet for financial transactions, nationally 42% of persons bought or renewed existing insurance policies online, see table below. This drops to 27% in the Border region while Dublin has the highest level – 48%, followed by the West at 46%.


Examining the extent of e-Government use, that is engaging with public authorities and public services via the internet, in 2019, half of internet users (50%) Obtained information from websites or apps. Regionally, the Border region recorded the lowest rate in obtaining information from websites or apps – just 29% in 2019.

Nationally, 60% reported Submitting completed forms online. It is interesting to note that submitting completed application forms is more prevalent across all regions than obtaining information. The South West, Dublin and the West all had in excess of 60% of individuals submitting completed application forms online which highlights the value of e-Government in engaging with people in this way. While submitting completed forms online is very prevalent, there are some regions such as the Midlands and Border regions where rates were below 50% such as the Midlands – 46% and Border – 47%.

Across all types of contact with public authorities and services as outlined in the Table below, there is some evidence of a decline in rates between 2018 and 2019. It is not clear what is the reason for this, it is possibly due to sampling and different households are selected each year. It could also reflect an actual decline on yearly rates but measuring whether this is a trend or not will only become evident over a longer time period.

Shared Economy

Nationally in 2019 one third of internet users arranged accommodation from another private individual via dedicated website or app (such as a room, apartment, house, holiday cottage, etc.), such as Airbnb, which was an increase of five percentage points on 2018. This again varies by region, but here the West region has the highest incidence with 42% using Airbnb or similar. This is followed by Dublin 37% and the Mid-West by 36%.

The regions with the lowest rates are the South-East (24%) and the Border (26%). All regions reported an increase year on year, apart from the Midlands and the South West which remained stable.

As Table 1.5 shows, the practice of accessing transport services from another private individual online is much less prevalent. Unsurprisingly the rates in Dublin are the highest given the rate of activity there.

Internet Purchases

Considering online purchases, Clothes or sports goods were the most popular online purchase in 2019, purchased by over half (51%) of internet users. Here the regions with the greatest rates of online purchasing is the South west (56%), Mid-East (53%) and Midland region (53%). The lowest rates are in the Border region (41%).

There are clear differences between age groups in the types of goods and services bought online. The largest difference was for Clothes or sports goods, with 68% of individuals aged 16 to 29 years purchasing these, compared with just 23% of those aged 60 to 74. This age difference will also likely impact on regional variations with some regions having and older age profile such as the Border and West.

ICT Skills and Online Learning

Respondents were asked about online learning activities for educational, professional or private purposes which they undertook in the previous three months. Nationally 13% did a course online in the previous quarter and the highest rates were in the West (18%) and the lowest rates were in the Border region – 8%.

There is a greater incidence of people who Used online learning material other than a complete online course, across the State over one fifth (21%) did so in the last three months. Again, there is much regional variation with the highest rates reported in the West (29%), followed by 27% in Dublin. The lowest rates were reported in the Border and the Mid-East (13%).

Nationally, 14% Communicated with instructors or students using educational websites or portals. Here the regional variation is less pronounced.  The Border region reports the same as nationally – 14% while Dublin has the highest rate at 18%.

Home Smart Technology

In 2019, one eighth (12%) of internet users stated that they use home smart technology i.e., they use the internet to interact with household equipment or appliances that are connected to the internet (such as control of heating, control of lights and other building/apartment maintenance systems; household appliances e.g. oven, washing machine, robot vacuum cleaner; security systems e.g. locks, alarms, security cameras).

Regionally there are differences with the highest rates reported in Dublin (19%), followed by the Mid-East, Mid-West and South-West – all 11%. The regions of Midlands and West report 10% of internet users using home smart technology, while the lowest rates reported were in the South-West (9%) and the Border (5%).


The information Society is very much embedded in how we conduct our lives. As the CSO data shows, the range of uses of the internet is extensive; from shopping for a wide range of goods and services to learning and accessing education services. And this release does not include information on the use of the internet to work from home on a regular or occasional basis.

The overall picture is clear, the use of the internet is pervasive and is becoming more so. The regional picture is less clear. On many of the themes, the Border region lags the national average, along with the West and South-East. On other variables such as arranging accommodation from another private individual online, the West has the highest rates.

Policy implications include the need to rollout the National Broadband Plan as soon as possible so as to ensure households without high speed broadband are not impeded in their use of the internet through a poor-quality service.

Other policy implications include the need to ensure ongoing provisions on high quality ICT skills and training such as the programme operated by the Department of Communications. It is clear that take -up is slower among the older age groups and some of this is due to a need for training.

Finally, it is clear that not everybody accesses goods and services online. Government services in particular need to continue to be delivered on an off-line method for those who are not able to or do not wish to access services online.



Deirdre Frost

City Led Regional Development and Peripheral Regions- join the debate!

The theme of this year’s Regional Studies Association Irish Branch Annual Conference, to be held in the Institute of Technology Sligo on Friday 7th September, is “City Led Regional Development and Peripheral Regions”.

The conference will examine how urban areas interact with their rural regions and whether the development of the city or urban area leads to wider development.

Two international experts, Dr Andrew Copus from the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen and Professor Mark Partridge, the C. William Swank Chair of Rural-Urban Policy at The Ohio State University, have been invited to present other countries’ experience on this theme and to stimulate debate about the reality of city led development.

Andrew’s paper  The Scottish City Region Deals – A rural development perspective. considers how urban-rural interaction is a long-established element of the “theory of change” associated with regional development policy. Optimistic assumptions about wider functional region benefits of city investments, are commonplace and generally unquestioned, despite meagre evidence of such impacts. A summary history of urban-rural concepts in the European policy discourse, will be followed by a brief account of rural/regional policy in Scotland. Against this background the origin and evolution of Scotland’s City Region Deals, and Regional Partnerships, will be described. The presentation will conclude with some reflections on the how these evolving arrangements fit into an already cluttered policy landscape, their compatibility with rural policy “mainstreaming”, and the likely benefits for rural Scotland.

Mark’s paper Is there a future for Rural in an Urbanizing World and Should We Care? examines how rural areas have received increased attention with the rise of right-wing populist parties in Western countries, in which a strong part of their support is rural based. While the underlying reasons are complex and unique to each country, one common feature is that rural areas have typically faced recent economic decline, creating anxiety, and in some cases, anger of rural residents directed at their urban counterparts. Thus, bridging this rural-urban economic divide takes on added importance in not only improving the individual livelihoods of rural residents but in increasing social cohesion. One way to bridge this economic gap is to improve rural-urban economic linkages through an urban-led economic strategy. For example, urban growth can create commuting and market opportunities for rural residents and firms if there is sufficient connectivity. While such a process has strong theoretical advantages it also requires rural areas to more carefully think about quality of life to attract and retain residents who would otherwise relocate to urban areas.

The issues in Ireland are examined in other presentations and it is to be hoped that the conference will provide useful input to the discussion about regional development in Ireland as the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies of Project Ireland 2040 are drafted. The draft conference programme is below.

Detailed Conference Information can be accessed here (including speaker bios, directions, and accommodation). 

Register here for the conference (€70 including lunch) and come along and join in the debate.


Helen McHenry

WDC Insights Christmas Quiz Time Again!

We are sure you have been reading our WDC Insights blog and keeping an eye on our publications throughout 2017.  Take our Christmas Quiz (10 questions) and see just how well you can score on regional development and Western Region issues.   As the results of Census 2016 were released this year, the focus of this year’s quiz is on the census results!

The answers are at the end with links to more information and the relevant posts.

Good Luck!

1.   Census 2016- The Western Region Population

The Western Region comprises 7 of the 26 counties in the Republic of Ireland.

What proportion of the state population lives in the Western Region?

  1. 17.4%
  2. 18.2%
  3. 16.9%

2.   Census 2016- Western Region Population Growth

The population of the Western Region grew between 2011 and 2016 to 828,697.  What was the percentage growth rate?

  1. 4.4%
  2. 2.8%
  3. 1.0%

3.   Census 2016- Housing

According to Census 2016 the housing stock in three Western Region counties fell between 2011 and 2016.  In which 3 counties did it fall?

  1. Mayo, Donegal and Leitrim
  2. Leitrim, Roscommon and Sligo
  3. Roscommon, Sligo and Clare

4.   Census 2016- looking back 175 years

The release of information from the Census of Population 2016 provided an interesting opportunity to look back 175 years to the Census of 1841 to see how population in the Western Region changed.  Roscommon was the county with the greatest percentage population loss in the decade after 1841.

Between 1841 and 1851 by how much did the population of Roscommon fall?

  1. 17%
  2. 28%
  3. 32%

5.   Census 2016- Rurality in the Western Region

In Ireland 37% of people live in rural areas (outside of towns of 1,500) and the Western Region covers some of the most rural parts of Ireland.  The Western Region is very rural, what percentage of people live in rural areas in the Region?

  1. 42%
  2. 76%
  3. 65%

6.   Census 2016- The Older population

In the EU 28 some 28.7% of the population is over 65, while in Ireland as a whole only 13.4% of the population is over 65.

What proportion of the Western Region population is over 65?

  1. 15.4%
  2. 17.9%
  3. 19.2%

7.   Census 2016- Broadband

The WDC has been highlighting rural broadband needs for more than a decade. It is a particular issue for our largely rural region

What percentage of households in the Western Region had broadband in April 2016?

  1. 73.6%
  2. 65.5%
  3. 42.8%

8.   Census 2016-Travel to work in the Western Region

The proportion of people travelling to work by car in the Western Region did not change between Census 2011 and 2016.

What percentage of people in the region travel to work by car?

  1. 87.3%
  2. 69.8%
  3. 72.4%

9.   Census 2016 – Island living in the Western Region

If you fancy island living there are 55 inhabited islands in the Western Region, although recent freezing temperatures, storms and plenty of rainfall mean you will have to be tough!

How many coastal islands in the Western Region had a population of more than 50 people in 2016?

  1. 16
  2. 23
  3. 19

10.   Census 2016- languages spoken in the Western Region

Apart from English and Irish which language is most commonly spoken at home in the Western Region?

  1. Lithuanian
  2. Polish
  3. French


Don’t forget to keep count of how many correct answers you have.


1.   Census 2016- The Western Region Population

Answer: 1) 17.4%

2.   Census 2016- Western Region Population

Answer: 3) 1.0%

For more on population change in the Western Region see the post here.

3.   Census 2016- Housing

Answer 2) Leitrim, Roscommon and Sligo

For more information from Census 2016 on housing in the Western Region see this post

4.   Census 2016- looking back 175 years

Answer 3) 32%

Read more about the dramatic changes in the Western Region population between 1841 and 2016 here

5.   Census 2016- Rurality in the Western Region

Answer 3) 65%

Read more about rurality, population density and the urban population of the Western Region here

6.   Census 2016- The Older population

Answer 1) 15.4%

Read more about dependency and the age profile of the Western Region here

7.   Census 2016- Broadband

Answer: 2) 65.5%

Read more about the issue of rural broadband on the blog here and here.

8.   Census 2016-Travel to work in the Western Region

Answer: 3) 72.4%

Read more about commuting patterns and modes of commuting in the Western Region here.

9.   Census 2016 – Island living in the Western Region

Answer 1) 16

For more on island populations in the Western Region see this post 

10.   Census 2016- Languages spoken at home

Answer: 2) Polish

For more on diversity in Ireland see this census publication.

How well did you do?

You got 9 or 10 answers correct

CONGRATULATIONS! You really know a lot about regional development, the Western Region and the Western Development Commission’s work.

 You got between 4 and 8 answers correct

WELL DONE, a good score but some deficiencies in your knowledge. Perhaps you should read our WDC Insights posts more carefully in 2017!

 You got between 0 and 3 answers correct

OH DEAR! Time to pay more attention to regional development and Western Region issues. You’ll have to do some extra study over the holiday! Reread the WDC Insights blog and check out the WDC publications page and re-take the quiz in the New Year :)


Happy Christmas!

Island Life- Population change on islands in the Western Region

If you fancy island living there are 55 inhabited islands in the Western Region, although current freezing temperatures, recent storms and plenty of rainfall mean you will have to be tough!

You can choose from lonely isolation to relative crowds with populations on Western Region islands ranging from 1 person (on 9 islands) to 2,440 on Achill (Acaill) Co Mayo, the most populated of Ireland’s islands.  Most of the populated coastal islands in the State are in the Western Region (55 of 82 listed by the CSO for Census 2016) and 80% of island dwellers are on Western Region islands

At the time of the 2016 census, 6,985 people in the Western Region lived on islands, a decline of 5.9% since 2011.  This compares to a 6.2% increase in the population of islands elsewhere in Ireland.  It should be noted, however that in both the Western Region and elsewhere, there was significant variation in population change on different islands, some with population increases and some with decreases.  In this analysis I have grouped the islands into different categories so that the tables are shorter and key characteristics can be highlighted.

The figures discussed here are the de facto populations, i.e. the population recorded for each island is the total of all persons present on the Census night.  While there would be expected to be some difference in the de facto population and the resident population[1], on Western Region islands there were none with very significant differences (some islands elsewhere did have large differences).

Islands with a population of more than 50 people

There 16 coastal islands in the Western Region with a population of more than 50 people in 2016.  However, the population of the five largest of these inhabited islands decreased between 2016 and indeed of the islands in the Western Region with a population of more than 50 (16 in 2016), only 3 showed population increases (Inis Oirr, Galway (12.9%); Inis Meain, Galway (16.6%) and Inishbofin, Galway (9.4%))- see Table 1 below.  The population of Achill fell by 5% and on Inis Mór, Galway the population fell by nearly 10% while on Árainn Mhór (Arranmore, Donegal) the population fell by 9%.  Toraigh (Tory island, Donegal) had a population loss of more than 17% while the population of  Eanach Mheáin (Annaghvaan, Galway) fell by more than a quarter. The biggest percentage population decline in this category was on An Chruit (Cruit), Donegal) which had a population fall of almost 30%, some 25 people).

Table 1: Islands in the Western Region with a population of more than 50 in 2016

Source: CSO, Census of Population 2016, E2021 Population of Inhabited Islands Off the Coast 2011 to 2016 by Islands, CensusYear and Sex

Islands with a population of between 10 and 50 people

There are eight islands in the Western Region with population of between 10 and 50 people, and again the majority of these showed population decreases (Table 2 below). The most significant population fall (28%) was on Inis Bigil, Co Mayo (from 25 in 2011 to 18 in 2016), while the only increase was on An Ros, in Galway which grew by 10%, adding 2 more to its population.

Table 2: Islands in the Western Region with a population of between 10 and 50 people in 2016

Source: CSO, Census of Population 2016, E2021 Population of Inhabited Islands Off the Coast 2011 to 2016 by Islands, CensusYear and Sex

Islands with fewer than 10 inhabitants (but which were inhabited in 2011)

Among the smallest of the inhabited islands (fewer than 10 people, and which were inhabited in both 2011 and 2016) there were some very important changes and which are of significance for islands with these small populations.  These are shown in Table 3 below.  For example, the population of Gabhla, Donegal fell by 67% from 15 to 5, and the population of Inis Bó Finne, Donegal fell from 11 people to 2 people (-81%), while Inishturk Beg, Mayo fell from 10 people to 2 people (-80%).  The most significant growth in this category was on Inis Mhic an Doirn, Donegal where population grew from 1 person to 5 people.

Table 3: Islands in the Western Region with a population of between 1 and 10 people in 2016 and which were inhabited in both 2011 and 2016

Source: CSO, Census of Population 2016, E2021 Population of Inhabited Islands Off the Coast 2011 to 2016 by Islands, CensusYear and Sex

Islands which were not inhabited in 2011 but had inhabitants in 2016

There were also ten islands in the Western Region which had no population in 2011 and were populated in 2016.  The most significant of these was Oileán Uaighe (Owey), Co. Donegal which gained six people.  On 6 of the islands which were not inhabited in 2011, the population in 2016 was just one person.

Table 4 Islands which had no population in 2011 and are now inhabited

Source: CSO, Census of Population 2016, E2021 Population of Inhabited Islands Off the Coast 2011 to 2016 by Islands, CensusYear and Sex

Islands which were inhabited in 2011 but were uninhabited in 2016

In the final category, there are 6 islands which were inhabited in 2011 and which were uninhabited at Census 2016 (Table 5 below).  The most significant population losses in this category were on Inis Meáin, Donegal (7 people in 2011 and no inhabitants in 2016) and on Inishcottle, Co Mayo, 5 inhabitants in 2011 and none in 2016.

Table 5: Islands which had population in 2011 and were uninhabited in 2016

Source: CSO, Census of Population 2016, E2021 Population of Inhabited Islands Off the Coast 2011 to 2016 by Islands, CensusYear and Sex


Finally, it is very important to note that this data from the Census of Population refers to a snapshot of population in time (2011 and 2016 in this analysis) and for some of the smaller islands in particular, there can be varied explanations for population changes and population can fluctuate unexpectedly.  It is always important, therefore, when considering the population of the islands to understand the causes of the changes.  It is also essential to be cautious when referring to percentage changes where populations are very small.


[1] Information about de facto and resident populations was provided by the CSO.  I am grateful for their helpful response to this and other queries

What is Rural?

Many of us probably feel we know what rural means.  Perhaps when we hear the word we think of green fields, or wild mountains, or deserted beaches.  Or maybe we think of small villages, modern bungalows or just anywhere beyond ‘the big smoke’.  Arguably all of these are or can be considered rural and, indeed, in most situations it is not important how we define rural.  We know what it is, we use our mental definition, we even have casual conversations where everyone is talking about a different ‘rural’ and for the most part that doesn’t matter.

But is does matter when we come to make policy for rural places and when we think what should be included in ‘rural policy’, because the kind of policy we make and the kind of issues we address are strongly influenced by what we define as rural.  If we think of rural as fields and pastures then we may think of rural policy as agricultural policy, and if we think of it as market towns and pretty villages we may see it as a heritage or cultural issue and when we think of rural dwellers we have to think about how different policies affect people.

Defining Rural

The question of how we define rural for policy purposes and in relation to people rather than based on landscapes or places has not been resolved in Ireland.  While the OECD uses a definition relating to population density[1], the CSO defines the rural population as those living outside settlements of 1,500 people, while CEDRA (the Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas) defined rural as those areas outside the administrative boundaries of the five main cities (Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford).  That definition includes some large urban settlements like Ennis, Dundalk and Kilkenny.  Realising our Rural Potential- the Action Plan for Rural Development refers to the CEDRA definition and provides a map of population densities but does not specify a definition of rural.

Finally, and most recently, the new Draft National Planning Framework (NPF) Ireland 2040- Our Plan defines rural as all areas outside towns of 10,000, unless they are within the immediate or ‘metropolitan’ catchment of a city[2].

How we define rural impacts on how many people we are considering when we make rural policy.  Is it a minority, niche policy, or something relevant to a majority of the population?  With the different definitions we get a very different population groups.  Under the OECD definition (a variation of which is used by Eurostat) 70.5% of the state population is predominantly rural.  Ireland is the most rural of the EU27 countries for both population and land area (for more information see note 1 below).

Looking at the different definitions used in Irish policy making (by the CSO, CEDRA and the NPF), for both the state as a whole and the Western Region we can see significant differences in the proportion of the population which is rural.

Figure 1: Percentage of the population living in rural areas according to definition for Western Region and State

Source: CSO Census of Population 2016,  Profile 2 – Population Distribution and Movements / E2014 own calculations

The Western Region is a very rural region and, whichever definition is used, the majority of the Region’s population falls into that category.  The CSO has the narrowest definition, with fewest defined as rural people (65%, or 535,953 people in the Western Region) while the CEDRA definition is inevitably the broadest, including on two thirds of the population of thewhole state (90% of the people in the Western Region). Nationally the definition of rural can take in anything between 37% and 66% of the population (between 1.8 and 3.1m people).

Looking at what is defined as rural in the three Regional Assembly Areas, which are important policy regions in the NPF and forthcoming Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies (to be developed by the Regional Assemblies) there is a clear contrast among the regions.

Figure 2: Percentage of the population living in rural areas according to definition for three Regional Assembly Areas

Source: CSO Census of Population 2016,  Profile 2 – Population Distribution and Movements / E2014 own calculations

The NWRA is the most rural, with at least two thirds of its population classified as rural in the narrowest definition.  The EMRA, even using the broadest definition, has less than half its population defined as rural.

Rural Policy or Policy for Rural People?

Given the rural population numbers, whichever definition is used, most policy affecting the Western Region is  rural policy as it impacts on the majority of the population.  Even policy which focuses more on Galway and the larger towns has important effects on rural people as these are centres of employment, enterprise education and health services.

The question becomes whether policy for a rural region is rural policy or, given that more than half population is living in rural areas, are not the needs of a rural region integral to all policy, including that for enterprise, employment, healthcare or transport?  Does labelling large parts of the country as rural and expecting their needs to be covered by a ‘rural policy’ serve those dwelling in rural areas well?  Does it ensure infrastructure provision takes account of our settlement pattern as it is, rather than as we think it should be?  Or, if we treat rural as different and needing separate policy rather than as an integral part of our policy focus, can we ensure that businesses can operate efficiently throughout the country, or that people can find varied employment in different places?  These are not narrow issues of rural policy but involve addressing the needs of the wider population through all government policy

Clearly areas which are very peripheral and which have small populations have particular policy requirements but most people in rural areas, however they are defined, have the same needs for employment, healthcare, education and transport as the rest of the population.  It is therefore not only important to consider how we define rural but why we are doing so, and how these definitions can be used to ensure people throughout the Region and the country have their needs addressed equally.


Helen McHenry


[1] The OECD methodology classifies local administrative units level 2 with a population density below 150 inhabitants per km² as rural.  For more information on the definition see

[2] These catchments are not mapped in the draft NPF and it is not clear how much of the country is considered to be within the influence of a city.

Census 2016-The Western Region – in pictures!

As further results from Census 2016 are published we get an interesting picture of the Western Region in 2016.  The Western Development Commission (WDC) has today published an infographic on aspects of the Western Region from the Census 2016 Summary Results Part 1.

This is the first in a series of infographics to be published using data from the Census and focusing on the Western Region – the seven counties under the remit of the WDC.  These infographics make key regional statistics available in an easily accessible manner.

In this infographic we show that:

  • The Western Region had 17.4% of the state population in 2016 compared to 30.7% in 1841
  • While the Region’s population only grew by 1% between 2011 and 2016, it grew by over 26% in the last 20 years (between 1996 and 2016)
  • 4% of the Western Region population is female
  • 21,185 people in the Region speak Polish at home.

For more interesting statistics about the Western Region click here 






Helen McHenry

Regional Towns: Growth or decline? Can we tell?

Population change is an important issue and one of the key reasons that we conduct a census in Ireland.  However, as well as being one of the most important indicators of change, it is also an emotive issue.  Population growth in most cases is considered a good thing, an indicator of a vibrant economy and society, while population decline is taken to indicate stagnation and under development.  This is particularly the case in relation to well known, well defined areas such as counties or, in the case of this post, of towns.

Important strategic policies such as the National Planning Framework (NPF)  and the (RSES)  are currently being prepared, and these (along with policies such as Realising our Rural Potential- An Action Plan for Rural Development   have long time horizons and rely on population data as an important benchmark of development.  Therefore robust intercensal comparisons are critical.

Population data from Census 2016 for towns was made available with the publication of Profile 2- Population Distribution and Movements on 11 May.  In its initial release on StatBank[1], tables of town populations for 2011 and 2016 were provided.  In the background notes (Appendix 2) to Profile 2 the CSO noted that there had been boundary changes to 80 towns for which populations were given.  However, the towns were not named, listed or highlighted in the original data available on StatBank and data on town population was provided for all towns for 2011 and 2016.

It has now become apparent that the 2011 data that was originally provided related to the old boundaries and so the 2011 population was not directly comparable to that in 2016. This has been amended (Tables E2014 and E2016 amended on 9.06.17) and different tables are now provided in StatBank.  The 2011 data is no longer provided for the towns which have had boundary changes.  This will prevent inaccurate comparisons and also means that they can now be identified by users.

The change means that people downloading the data now will not make a direct comparison with 2011 for those towns, but for many of us who looked at the data just after its release the comparisons had already been made, commented on or published.

The number of boundary changes was very significant. In the table of 200 towns with population of more than 1,500, 71 had boundary changes.  Of the 41 towns in the Western Region with population of more than 1,500, 15 towns had had boundary changes making comparison with 2011 population data invalid.  The most notable of these is Ballina for which original published data showed a decline of 915 people (-8.25%).  This led to discussion and investigation by regional newspapers[2].

All of the five towns[3] in the Western Region with a population of more than 10,000 have been affected by boundary changes (each of these showed falls in population ranging from  -8.25% to -0.33%).  The extent to which the boundary change is responsible for the population change is unclear.  The CSO does note that in many cases the physical area of the town was reduced:

Census towns which previously combined legal towns and their environs have been newly defined using the standard census town criteria (with the 100 metres proximity rule). For some towns the impact of this has been to lose area and population, compared with previous computations.[4]

Among the seven towns[5] in the Western Region with population between 5,000 and 10,000 six had had boundary changes (the exception being Roscommon).  The population change in these towns, compared to the 2011 figure based on the old boundaries, varied from -0.79% (Buncrana) to +9.76% (Loughrea).  It is hard to assess the extent to which the population change between 2016 and 2011 is reflective of boundary changes or other factors.

So we are now in the situation where we know which towns have had boundaries changes (unlike the situation when Profile 2 was initially released), but we don’t know the extent of the boundary changes and how much they influenced the towns’ Census populations.

It would be very useful if the CSO could provide revised 2011 figures for those towns with boundary changes.  This would allow for direct comparison with 2011 and show clearly whether a town’s population grew or declined.  It would also provide clarity about the effect of the boundary change on the town population.

When the Small Area Statistics (SAPS) are published (20 July 2017) there will be greater detail on local population changes and it may be possible to be clear about where towns have grown and declined and the magnitude of the actual population changes (as compared to those population changes resulting from boundary changes).


It is important that where there are significant alterations to boundaries used or where methods change between Censuses they are very clearly highlighted in any tables published, especially when they relate to headline figures such as population change or population density.  This would mean that a user would not be led to assume that, because the data has been published alongside older data by the Central Statistics Office, it is comparable.

This might seem to be an issue only of concern to those who enjoy analysing data.  It is not.  Changes to town populations can have very significant implications for resource allocations both at a Local Authority level, regionally and nationally.

Would the NPF be more likely to focus on the development of a town that appears to be thriving and showing population growth or one which seems to have stagnated or declined?

Similarly those looking to invest in services and infrastructure, either public (e.g. broadband, education or healthcare) or private (e.g. cinemas, leisure), may think twice if a town seems to be in decline.

Indicators other than population change are used in decision making, but population is still one of the most important.  It is therefore essential that we have good reliable data, for which any changes in methods or boundaries have been very clearly highlighted[6]….


Helen McHenry


[1] StatBank is one of the CSO’s databases and its main data dissemination service.

[2] See Mayo News,  16 May 2017, and also Western People, 29 May 2016, ‘Misleading Census data’

[3] Ennis, Letterkenny, Sligo, Castlebar and Ballina.

[4] In addition 26 new census towns were created for the 2016 Census.

[5] Shannon, Tuam, Buncrana, Ballinasloe, Westport, Roscommon and Loughrea.

[6] …and not just in the small print or footnote which may fall off the bottom of a page…..

Census 2016: Principal Economic Status in the Western Region

The CSO has just issued the second set of summary results from Census 2016.  ‘Census 2016 Summary Results – Part 2’ gives initial results of some of the socio-economic indicators from Census 2016. More detailed results for each theme will be released in ‘Profiles’ between now and December.

The summary results include data on:

  • Principal Economic Status
  • Employment by sector, occupation and nationality
  • Socio-economic groups and social class
  • Education
  • Travel patterns
  • Health, disability and caring

This initial blog post will examine the Principal Economic Status results and other themes will be analysed in future posts.

What is Principal Economic Status?

Principal Economic Status (PES) measures the economic status e.g. at work, retired, student etc. of the entire population aged 15 years and over.  It is a self-assigned measure in that the person selects the category they believe applies to them. It differs from the ILO definition that is used in the Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) and the official employment figures. This difference mainly impacts on the numbers counted as in employment – for the ILO definition, if a person has worked for payment or profit for 1 hour or more in the previous fortnight they are counted as employed. This will result in a higher number being counted as employed than when people are asked to give their own status as in the PES question in the Census.  Therefore the PES data from the Census will not match the official employment statistics for that period. For more see the Appendices to the report.

PES in the Western Region 2016

In the Western Region in 2016 there 653,749 persons aged over 15 years.  Fig. 1 shows their economic status.

Fig. 1: Principal Economic Status of all persons aged 15 years and over in the Western Region, 2016. Source: CSO, 2017, Census 2016 Summary Results – Part 2, Table EZ002

Change in economic status in the Western Region 2011-2016

Just over half (51.1%) the region’s adult population stated that they were ‘at work’ (employed or self-employed) (Fig. 2). This was an increase from 2011 when 48.2% of the region’s adult population was working. Since 2011 there has been a notable decline in the share of the population unemployed (having lost or given up a job) from 11.2% down to 7.4%.

The other category showing considerable change is the number who are retired, rising from 14% up to 16.6%. This is in line with a national trend of an increasing number of retired people, partly driven by rising life expectancy, recent early retirement schemes in the public sector and also the fact that the historical trend of rising female labour force participation is now leading to increasing numbers of women in retirement. Women who are engaged in home duties tend to continue to report themselves as such, even into their older years, whereas women who have participated in the labour force would report themselves as retired when they retire from paid employment. The downward trend in the number of people engaged in home duties continued in this Census, declining from 9.4% to 8% in the region.

There was a slight decline in the share of the population unable to work due to illness or disability (4.6% to 4.4%), while the share of the population (15+ yrs) who are students was exactly the same in 2016 as in 2011, though of course the actual number of students would have changed (it increased by 1.5%).

Fig. 2: Percentage of all persons aged 15 years and over by Principal Economic Status in the Western Region, 2011 and 2016. Source: CSO, 2017, Census 2016 Summary Results – Part 2, Table EZ002

Economic Status in the Western Region by gender

The PES composition of the adult male and female population in the Western Region is shown in Fig. 3.  One of the most notable gender differences is in the share of males and females who are ‘at work’, 55.3% compared with 47%. The trend in the share of women at work has been increasing over time due to rising female labour force participation, however there continues to be a lower share of adult women at work.  Between 2011 and 2016 the number of males at work in the Western Region increased by 8.4% while the number of females only rose by 6.5%. Though it must be taken into account that the decline in the number of males at work during the previous intercensal period was far higher. There is a lower share of women who are unemployed, both having lost a job (5.9% v 9%) and first time jobseekers (0.7% v 0.9%).

As noted above, the ongoing increase in female labour force participation has led to a rising share of women who are retired. The share of all women who are retired (16.1%) is now closer to men (17.1%). Since 2011 there has been a 16.9% increase in the number of retired men in the Western Region but a 23.3% increase in the number of retired women, both increases are quite close to what happened nationally over that period.

Fig. 3: Percentage of males and females aged 15 years and over by Principal Economic Status in the Western Region, 2016. Source: CSO, 2017, Census 2016 Summary Results – Part 2, Table EZ002

The biggest gender difference continues to be in the category ‘Looking after home/family’ with 14.3% of women compared with 1.4% of men with this status.  The ongoing decline in the share of women engaged in home duties continued in this period with a 15.1% decline in the Western Region since 2011, higher than the 11.5% decline that occurred nationally.  There was some growth in the share of men who are on home duties, up 3.3% in the region, though this is considerably less than the 15% growth experienced nationally.  Even though the region had lower growth, the share of men engaged on home duties in the region (1.4%) is greater than in the State (1.0%)

Economic status in the Western Region compared with State

Comparing the PES of the adult population of the Western Region with the State average (Fig. 4), the main difference is in the share ‘at work’. At 53.4%, the State is higher than the Western Region (51.1%).  The other category where there is a notable difference is retired. In the region, 16.6% of adults are retired, compared with 14.5% in the State. This would be linked to the region’s older age profile. The region also has a slightly higher share of its population unemployed having lost/given up a job and those unable to work due to illness/disability.

Fig. 4: Percentage of all persons aged 15 years and over by Principal Economic Status in the Western Region and State, 2016. Source: CSO, 2017, Census 2016 Summary Results – Part 2, Table EZ002

Economic status in different area types

Details on the economic status of the population by town size is also available. The detailed information for individual towns will be released in future Profiles, but the Summary Results provide details for the five cities (with their suburbs), and then various town size categories and rural areas.

From Table 1 it can be seen that Dublin city and suburbs has the highest share of its population at work (56.1%) while Limerick city has the lowest (47.2%).  Among the five cities, Galway has the second highest share (53.5%).

There is a general pattern that the share of the population at work declines from the larger towns of 10,000+ (53.1%) down to the smaller towns, and then villages (49.4%). It must of course be remembered that these size categories would include towns within the hinterlands of the cities which function as commuter towns. The open countryside (beyond areas of 50 inhabited houses) has a high share of its population at work. This is likely linked to both farming and commuters living in rural houses.

Table 1: Percentage of all persons aged 15 years and over by Principal Economic Status by town size, 2016. Source: CSO, 2017, Census 2016 Summary Results – Part 2, Table EZ014

In terms of unemployment, Cork, Dublin and Galway have the smallest shares of their population unemployed (having lost/left a job), at under 7%, compared with 10% in Waterford. Among towns, the share who are unemployed generally increases as town size declines, though villages and open countryside have lower shares unemployed. This is partly explained by the higher share of retired people. Towns of 1,000-1,499, followed by villages and open countryside, have the highest shares of their population retired at over 16%.

Galway on the other hand has the lowest share of retired among its population (12.2%).  This is mirrored by Galway also having the highest share of students (17.1%), which strongly shows the influence of both NUIG and GMIT on the city. Limerick and Cork have the next highest shares of students again highlighting the importance of their higher education institutions.  The category of towns of 10,000+ would include those which have an Institute of Technology e.g. Sligo, Dundalk, so it does show a higher share than smaller towns but still considerably less than in the cities. When the details for individual towns are released it will be easier to see the impact of individual IoTs.

The share of the population looking after home/family has a quite strong pattern, increasing steadily as town size declines from 10,000+ (8.3%) to open countryside (9.3%).  The share in all cities is below 7.5% and in Galway, again reflecting its young age profile, the share is only 5.5%.  A quite similar pattern can be seen for those unable to work due to illness or disability, which generally increases as town size declines though falls again for villages and open countryside, where it is particularly low. This may be linked to accessibility issues as those with a disability and their families may choose to live in a town or city for easier access to services. The highest rate in the country is in Limerick city, with Galway having the lowest.


This initial look at the PES data from Census 2016 confirms the general trend of improving labour market conditions, with an increase in the share of the adult population who are working and a fall in unemployment.  Increasing life expectancy and the consequence of increasing female labour force participation has also led to a strong growth in the retired population, a trend with clear policy implications.  While there continue to be significant gender differences in terms of economic status, the difference is reducing, though a substantially higher share of women than men are still engaged in home duties.

Compared with the national picture, the region has a lower share at work and higher share who are retired, partly linked to the region’s age profile and weaker labour market.  Future blog posts will examine in detail the Census data on the region’s labour market (labour force participation, employment, industries, occupations and unemployment), to examine what has occurred within the ‘at work’ and ‘unemployed’ groups.

Pauline White

Census 2016: Profiling Age and Dependency

The most recent release from Census 2016 Profile 2 – Population Distribution and Movements contains data on the age categories of the population by county.  Different age groups have different needs and opportunities so this information is important for planning services for the future and understanding social and economic development issues for our region.

Population in key age categories

The key age categories for analysis are shown in Figure 1 for the Western Region, the Rest of State[1] and for the EU28 (in 2015) along with the projected age structure for the EU 28 in 2080.

The Western Region has 21.1% of its population in the 0-14 age group (the same as the Rest of State), while 15.6% of the EU28 population is in that age category.  The county with highest share of young people in its total population in 2016 was Donegal (22.0%) while the lowest were Mayo and Sligo (20.3%).


Figure 1: Population Structure by Age Group

Source:  CSO, 2017, Profile 2 – Population Distribution and Movements  E2022  and Eurostat (demo_pjangroup) and (proj_13npms)


The category ‘15-64 years’ covers most of the economically active population.  In the Western Region the Galway has the largest proportion in this category (65.6%) but this is still lower than the average for the Rest of State (65.9%).  Leitrim has the lowest proportion in this age category (61.5%).

There is significant variation among counties in the proportion of the population over 65 years, but all counties have more people in this category (between 13.6% in Galway and 17.5% in Mayo) than the Rest of State (13.0%).  Counties, including those such as Mayo, Roscommon and Leitrim which we consider to have high concentrations of older people, have fewer in the older age categories than the EU 28 (18.9%) which is turn is much less than that projected for the EU 28 (28.7%) by 2080.

Population Pyramids

The population pyramid below (Figure 2) shows the age distribution for the Western Region and the Rest of State in more detail.  A peak of births in 1980 shows up in the 35-39 age category, and another peak in the number of births occurred in 2009[2] and shows up in the 5-9 age category.  The smaller numbers in both the 20-24 age category relates to a falling birth rate in that period while the lower number in the 25-29 age categories, and to some extent in the 30-34 are the result of high outward migration.  The difference in proportions in these age categories for the Western Region and Rest of State indicate greater out migration from the Western Region.


Figure 2: Population Pyramind for Western Region and Rest of State, 2016

Source:  CSO, 2017, Profile 2 – Population Distribution and Movements  E2022


The Western Region has a higher proportion of it population than the Rest of State in each of the age categories from 45 years and upwards for females and 40 years and upwards for males.  This is also the case for the 10-14 and 15-19 years categories but the more recent higher birth rate in other more rapidly growing counties (especially those surrounding Dublin) means there is a higher proportion of young children in the population in the Rest of State than the Western Region, but these differences are relatively small at the moment.

Dependency ratios

The Dependency ratio (Figure 3) shows the number of older and younger people compared to the working age population (which for this statistic is considered to be 15-64) as these are potentially the most economically active.  In reality many in the 15-19 and 20-24 categories will be in education but it is a useful statistic for comparison purposes.

It is also important to be aware of the differences in population structure among regions and counties when examining economic statistics such as those for income and output.  Counties a lower percentage in the economically active age groups have proportionally more dependents.  They will tend to have lower per capita income and output levels even where there is no difference in productivity.

Mayo has the highest old age dependency ratio (28.3%) in the country,  followed by Leitrim (27.4%) and Roscommon (26.8%) while the lowest nationally is in Kildare (15%).  Galway (20.6%) and Clare (23.4%) have the lowest age dependency ratios in the Region but all Western Region counties have a higher age dependency than that for the Rest of State (19.7%).


Figure 3: Old Age, Youth and combined Dependency Ratios, 2016

Source:  CSO, 2017, Profile 2 – Population Distribution and Movements  E2022, own calculations


The highest youth dependency ratio in the Region is in Donegal (35.3%) and Leitrim (35.1%) but other counties with particularly high birth rates have much higher youth dependency ratios (in Meath it is 39%, Laois 38.3% and Longford 37.2%).  In the Western Region the lowest is in Galway (31.8%) and Sligo (32.0%).  The Western Region as a whole has a youth dependency ratio of 33.2% compared to 32.1% in the Rest of State.

Combining the youth and old age figures gives an overall dependency figure which gives the proportion of both older and younger people compared to the working age population.  In the Western Region this was 57.4% while in the Rest of the State it was 51.8%.  This compared to a figure of 52.6% in the EU 28 in 2015.

The Oldest People

Some of the most significant change is population structure is occurring among the ‘older old’, those in the 80+ years category, with increased longevity and ageing of the older population.  In Roscommon 4.4% of the population is already in this older age category, while Leitrim (4.27%) and Mayo (4.24%) are the next highest in the state. In contrast, in Kildare only 1.91% are in this category while in Meath it is 2.21%.  Some 3.7% of the WR population is over 80 (3.0% in the Rest of State).  It is expected that by 2080 in the EU28 12.3% of the population will be over 80, which compares to 5.3% in the EU28 in 2015.

The percentage in the 80+ years category is rising in all counties and, while increased longevity is a significant human achievement, it can have important implications.  Those in this age group can experience more poverty and social isolation and poorer health that the ‘younger old’[3].  There is also a significant gender dimension with women having higher survivorship and a lower propensity to re-marry which means they are more likely to live alone.  It is important to respond to, and plan for, the needs of this age category and to endeavour to ensure that as many years as possible are lived with as good health and quality of life as possible.


A higher proportion of the Western Region population is in the older and younger age categories than in the Rest of State, in part reflecting the outward migration of those of working age.  It highlights the importance of a focus on regional employment provision as a key element of regional development policies.  Improving employment prospects would benefit those currently in the youth dependent category, as well as those who are already economically active.

The higher proportion of older people in many Western Region counties means that services for older people are crucial.  As much of the Region is very rural we should continue to learn from best practice elsewhere, particularly in Europe, where the ageing of the population is taking place earlier, on how to provide supports and services to an older population in rural areas.

While much of the thinking about ageing populations is on services and supports it should also be remembered that many people in this age category are likely to continue in employment and so this group would also benefit from improved employment opportunities.  Currently, 4.5% of the Western Region labour force is over 65[4], while 13% of those in the 65+ category are in the labour force.  This compares to 2.8% of the rest of State labour force over 65 and a 10% participation rate for that age category.

Understanding trends in population and examining the detail for the seven Western Region counties helps us better understand the economy and society of the Region.  We will continue to provide analysis of the issues as more results are released from the 2016 Census of Population.



Helen McHenry


[1] Rest of State refers to the 19 counties which are not in the Western Region and is used for comparison rather than using a State figures which also include the Western Region.


[3] Ingham, B., Chirijevskis, A. & Carmichael, F. Pensions Int J (2009) 14: 221.’ Implications of an increasing old-age dependency ratio: The UK and Latvian experiences compared’ doi:10.1057/pm.2009.16

[4] CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey Quarter 1 2016- Special run for the Western Region.  See here for more detail

Census 2016: Rurality, Population Density and the Urban Population of the Western Region

Detailed population figures from the Census of Population were published last week in Profile 2 – Population Distribution and Movements  which looked at population density, rural and urban populations and the population in towns.

Rural and Urban Population

In Ireland as a whole just over a third (37%) of the population live in rural areas (that is outside towns of 1,500).  In contrast, in the Western Region shows the opposite pattern and 65% live in rural areas (Figure 1).  This is a marginal decline on 2011 (when it was 66%).

The rural population of the seven counties varies from almost 90% in Leitrim (where there is only one ‘urban centre- over 1,500) to 54% in Galway which of course includes the largest settlement.  After Leitrim, Roscommon, Donegal and Mayo are the most rural of the Western Region counties.  Sligo and Clare, along with Galway are slightly less rural.  It should be noted that Galway county (i.e. excluding the city) is one of the most rural with almost 78% of the population living in rural areas.

Figure 1: Percentage of Population living in rural areas in the Western Region and State.

Source: CSO Census 2016 Profile 2 E2008: Population Percentage in the Aggregate Town Areas and Aggregate Rural Areas


Each county, and the Western Region itself (64.7%), has a significantly higher proportion of people living in rural areas than for the State as a whole (37%).

Population Density

Density is another key indicator of rurality and it certainly is important in considering the provision of services.  In Ireland as a whole the population density is 70 people per square kilometre and in the more rural Western Region it is almost 32 people per km2 .  Again there is considerable variation by county and as can be seen in Figure 2 below, this largely mirrors the rurality of each of the seven counties.

Figure 2: Population Density in the Western Region and State (persons per sq km)

Source: CSO Census 2016 Profile 2 E2013: Population Density and Area Size 2011 to 2016


Galway has the highest population density (42 people per square km) and Leitrim has the lowest with just over 20 people per square kilometre.

Population in Towns

The population of towns across is also included in this Profile and looking at towns across the region the weak urban structure of the region is evident.

Galway is the significant city, with a population of 79,934 in 2016.  Only five towns have a population of more than 10,000 people (Table 1), and all of these had population declines between 2011 and 2016 though, with the exception of Ballina these were small.  Ennis, the largest settlement after Galway is less than a third of its size (25,276 people), and it had a slight population decline (-0.3%) while Letterkenny (19,274) and Sligo (19,199) also had population decreases (1.6% and 1.3%).  The population of Castlebar (12,068) fell by 2% but that in Ballina (10,171) fell by a more significant 8.3%.

Table 1: Population of Towns larger than 10,000 in the Western Region

2011 – Population (Number) 2016 – Population (Number) Actual change since previous census (Number) Percentage change since previous census (%)
Galway City and Suburbs, Galway 76,778 79,934 3,156 4.1
Ennis*, Clare 25,360 25,276 84 -0.3
Letterkenny*, Donegal 19,588 19,274 314 -1.6
Sligo*, Sligo 19,452 19,199 253 -1.3
Castlebar*, Mayo 12,318 12,068 250 -2
Ballina*, Mayo 11,086 10,171 915 -8.3
*Boundaries used for these Census towns have been changed since 2011 so the populations between 2011 and 2016 are not directly comparable.  See this post for more discussion.

Source: CSO Census 2016 Profile 2 E2016: Population and Actual and Percentage Change 2011 to 2016 by Alphabetical List of Towns


There are a further seven towns with a population of more than 5,000 (Table 2) giving a total of 13 towns including Galway in that size category (5,000-9,999) in the Western Region.  All of the towns in this category grew with the exception of Buncrana (-0.8%) and Ballinasloe which had no change.  The largest growth was in Loughrea (9.8%) which, along with Tuam, serves as a residential location for people working in Galway.

Table 2: Population of Towns 5,000-9,999 in the Western Region

2011 – Population (Number) 2016 – Population (Number) Actual change since previous census (Number) Percentage change since previous census (%)
Shannon*, Clare             9,673            9,729 56 0.6
Tuam*, Galway             8,242            8,767 525 6.4
Buncrana*, Donegal             6,839            6,785 – 54 -0.8
Ballinasloe*, Galway             6,659           6,662     3 0
Westport*, Mayo             6,063            6,198   135 2.2
Roscommon, Roscommon             5,693            5,876  183 3.2
Loughrea*, Galway             5,062            5,556 494 9.8
*Boundaries used for these Census towns have been changed since 2011 so the populations between 2011 and 2016 are not directly comparable.  See this post for more discussion.

Source: CSO Census 2016 Profile 2 E2016: Population and Actual and Percentage Change 2011 to 2016 by Alphabetical List of Towns


There are a further 27 towns in the Western Region with a population of more than 1,500 and which are therefore categorised as urban.  Athenry (12.5%), Gort (13.2%), Tubbercurry (13.7%) and Collooney (17.6%) showed the strongest growth, while Clifden showed a very significant population decline (-22.3%) partially associated with the closure of a Direct Provision Accommodation Centre in 2012.

Table 3 below shows the urban structure of the region.  165,922 people (58% of the region’s urban population of 283,873) live in towns of more than 10,000, and a further 49,573 people (17%) in towns of more than 5,000.  A significant population lives in the smallest towns 68,378 (24%)

Table 3: Urban Structure of the Western Region

2011 2016 Actual change (2011-2016) Percentage change (2011-2016)
Population of towns greater than 10,000 164,582 165,922 1,340 0.8%
Population of towns 5,000- 9,999 48,231 49,573 1,342 2.8%
Population of towns 1,500-4,999 66,647 68,378 1,731 2.6%
Total Population of towns greater than 1,500 279,460 283,873 4,413 1.6%

Source: CSO Census 2016 Profile 2 E2016: Population and Actual and Percentage Change 2011 to 2016 by Alphabetical List of Towns


While these urban populations are significant in the context of the region, it should be remembered that more than half a million people (535,953) are living in rural areas (in small settlements and open countryside) in the Region.  The CSO has provides population details of a further 201 settlements in the Region, the smallest of these is Malin (population 92) and 103,936 people live in these.  A total of 440,888 (53%) therefore live in more open countryside (and in even smaller settlements).


It is important to remember that the Western Region is a very rural region, and while higher level services (for example in health and education) should be provided in the larger urban settlements, the needs of those living in more rural, dispersed populations and the best means of providing services and access to services and employment in these areas must be considered.

For some more detail on town populations in each Western Region county see the WDC County Profiles.

Helen McHenry