Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Ireland’s growing population of young adults

Using the results of Census 2022, the CSO estimated that Ireland’s population in April 2023 of young adults aged 25 to 34 was 645,000.  If we go back five years to 2018, using Census 2016 as the benchmark, the CSO estimate that the population then of young adults aged 20 to 29 (the same cohort) was 575,000. 

Between 2018 and 2023 the population of this cohort grew by 60,000, or a little over 10 per cent.

Using the CSO’s estimates of the population by single year of age we can get the population of this group back to 1998 (when the youngest, now 25, would have been born).  After 1998, migration is the main driver of changes in the population of this cohort.

Population of Cohort Aged 25 to 34 in 2023 1998-2023

We can see that from 1998, the population of the cohort increased, likely as the parents of children moved to Ireland with them.  There was then a fall after the 2008 crash.  For the last ten years the size of the group has been increasing but this time, because the group is older, it is likely due to the autonomous decisions of young adults in their twenties.

We can see this pattern if we look at the estimated annual change in the population of this cohort.

Population of Cohort Aged 25 to 34 in 2023 Annual Change 1998-2023

In the years immediately preceding the pandemic, the size of this group was growing by an average of 10,000 per year.  Since then there has been volatility in the series due to COVID and, more recently, the war in Ukraine.

Of course, these changes are the net outcome of inward and outward migration.  We don’t have published estimates of migration by single year of age but the CSO do provide migration flows by age group.  Here is what they show for people aged 15 to 24 and for those aged 25 to 44.

Migration Flows of Population Aged 15-24 1987-2023

Migration Flows of Population Aged 25-44 1987-2023

In both cases, we that the estimated net flows in the past ten years have generally been positive.  Over the period since 1987 there is, though, a noticeable change in the age profile of migration.

In the late 80s and early 90s, migration, which was mainly emigration, was larger in the younger age category.  In 1989, negative net migration of 15 to 24 year olds was more than twice as large as that of 25 to 44 year olds.  By the turn of the millennium there was very little emigration of 25 to 44 years olds, while immigration of this group had become much stronger.

In the last 15 years, migration flows – both directions –  in the 25 to 44 age group have been larger than those in the 15 to 24 age group.  In the five years, pre-Covid, net migration of 25 to 44 year olds averaged +20,000 a year.  The impact of Covid and the war in Ukraine make identifying the underlying trends for the last couple of years difficult.

To conclude here are two additional snapshots of Irish migration flows:

  1. Migration flows of Irish citizens (available from 2006)
  2. Migration flows with Australia (available from 2008)

Migration Flows of Irish Citizens 2006-2023

Migration Flows with Australia 2008-2023

The estimated net migration of Irish citizens was positive from 2017 to 2021 and was negative in each of the last two years: –2.200 in 2022 and –900 in 2023.  And of the past eight years, Ireland has had one year (2022, -800) of negative net migration with Australia.

Finally, we use the Census results to assess how Ireland’s population of young adults has changed in recent years.  From Census 2016 we have the population by nationality for the 20 to 29 age group.  We roll that forward six years for Census 2022 and get the population by citizenship for the 26 to 35 age group.

Population of Young Adults by Citizenship 2016 and 2022

There was a 76,500 increase in this cohort in the inter-censal period.  Census 2016 recorded 554,000 people aged 20 to 29, and six years later, in Census 2022, there was 630,500 people aged 26 to 35

By country, the most significant change is for India, which shows an increase of 19,000 over the period.  No other country had a five-figure increase. The next largest increases were Brazil, Romania and Italy.  There were modest declines for Lithuania and the UK, with Poland showing the largest decline.

Over the period we can see that the number for Ireland increased slightly over the period – unsurprising as these are the benchmark for the estimated migration flows shown above.

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