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Author: News Letter
Published on 17 July 2012 01:00 PM

Northern Ireland’s population is increasing at a faster rate than at any point since the start of the Troubles, the first figures from last year’s Census reveal.

On Census Day 2011 the Province had a population of 1,810,900 — an increase of 125,600 people (seven per cent) since the 2001 Census.

That is the fastest increase in the Province’s population since the 1960s.

The total population of the six counties which make up Northern Ireland is bigger than it has ever been since the first comprehensive Census in Ireland was carried out in 1841, before the Potato Famine decimated the population of the island.

In the last decade the population has gone up by 125,600 — an increase of seven per cent on the 2001 population.

The Republic of Ireland’s Census last year revealed a population of 4.6 million, meaning that 6.4 million people now live on the island.

Yesterday’s partial Census results for Northern Ireland only covered the number, age, gender and household size of the population and further details which will reveal social and economic changes will be released over coming months.

The figures show that Northern Ireland has one of the youngest populations in Europe, but that the population as a whole is ageing significantly.

However, although there are 18,700 (seven per cent) fewer children, there are more pre-school children (aged 0-3), something which appears to go against the trend in the US where the recession has seen the birth rate fall.

Robert Beatty, Head of Census for Northern Ireland, said: “In a European context, we still have a young age profile, with one of the highest proportions of the population aged under 14.”

That will have implications for the number of schools in the Province as the Department of Education attempts to decide on where to close or amalgamate schools.

The Census also reveals a significant rise in the number of the most elderly, as lifespans increase. In 2001 there were 23,300 people aged 85 or over; in the space of a decade that has now increased to 31,400 — an increase of 35 per cent.

That ageing population will have a substantial impact on resources at Stormont in coming years, particularly on the money required to fund senior citizens’ free bus and rail passes and finance for health.

The figures show that 28 per cent of households now have just one person living in that house.

Although the population has risen by seven per cent, the number of households has increased by 12 per cent, one of the social factors which helped to push up house prices during the first six years of the last decade.

In 1961, half of the population lived in households of five or more people; today, only 22 per cent of the population live in such households.

There were 89,300 more births than deaths but the population went up by 125,600. Most of the roughly 36,000 difference was due to migration.

Details of the religious makeup of Northern Ireland are due to be released around the end of this year.

In past years the percentages of Roman Catholics and Protestants have been keenly analysed given the strong correlation between religion and politics in Northern Ireland.

However, recent polls suggest that record numbers of Catholics are happy for Northern Ireland to remain within the UK.

The response rate for last year’s Census was 95 per cent — the same as that 10 years ago. However, 20 years ago the response rate was 98 per cent.

Dr Norman Cavan, Registrar General for Northern Ireland, said that there had been no prosecutions so far because, in many cases, it would not be in the public interest to prosecute – but said that officials had “not closed the book” on possible court action.

Finance Minister Sammy Wilson, whose department is responsible for the Census, said that it was the single largest statistical exercise carried out by government.

He said: “Over the course of the coming months further reports will be published. The more detailed information from the 2011 Census will assist and help to inform ministers when making important decisions on long-term policy initiatives that will have a direct impact on the people of Northern Ireland, including health and education to name but two.”

Article by Sam McBride

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