Here’s everything you need to know about the census ·

TOMORROW, PEOPLE ALL across the country will be filling out the census form.

Last year was supposed to be a census year (they happen every five years), but it was delayed because of the Covid pandemic. 

The questionnaire covers topics such as age, marital status, gender, place of birth, occupation and housing characteristics.

The survey is conducted by the Central Statistics Office (CSO). The data from the survey is used to inform the government about what actions it needs to take to provide for the evolving population it serves. 

So let’s take a look at what you need to know about this year’s census. 

First of all, when should people fill in the forms and how do they return them? 

The census should be filled in tomorrow night (Sunday 3 April). Everyone present in the country on census night must be included on the forms. 

Once the form has been filled out, you should keep it in a safe place. Your census enumerator will return to collect the completed form between 4 April and 6 May 2022. 

The enumerator will ask a few basic questions to make sure the form has been completed correctly. 

Anyone who has not received a form can log this on the census website or by contacting 0818202204. 

What should you do if you are away on census night? 

Everyone should complete or be included on a census form wherever they sleep on census night. If you or your household are staying at a different location within Ireland tomorrow night, you must make sure that you complete your census form in this location.

If a member of the household is away from home on census night they should be included in the absent persons section at the back of the form, regardless of whether they are in the country or abroad.

If an entire household is abroad on census night, they will not complete a census form. However, the enumerator will have taken a few details on the doorstep when they call.

If you are in a hotel, guesthouse, hospital, or other communal establishment on census night, you should ensure that you have been provided with a census form and complete it there.

If you are working shift work on census night, you should complete your census form when you return home the next morning.

Is there anything different about this year’s census form compared to previous years?


Eight new questions have been added to this year’s census following a consultation process held in late 2017 inviting views on changes to the census form. 

There are also 25 changes to other questions on the form. 

Among the new questions to be included are how many working smoke alarms are in your accommodation, and what type of internet connection does your household have.

One new question asks people what time they usually leave work, school, college or childcare, while another asks people if they engage in any sort of voluntary work.

Other questions relate to working from home, tobacco use and access to childcare. 

What’s this about a time capsule being included on the form? 

For the first time, the census form will also include an optional ‘time capsule’ section, which will give each household the opportunity to write a message to future generations.

The messages will be stored along with the census forms for the next 100 years before being released to the public in 2122.

“The time capsule is an optional part of the form. The census people are not looking for anything, in that people can fill it in if they like, if they don’t want to fill it out that’s absolutely fine as well,” Cormac Halpin, senior statistician with the CSO, told The Journal’s The Explainer podcast. 

“What we’ll do with that is actually quite little. The time capsules will be kept along with the rest of the census forms for 100 years, which is in line with the legislation that governs the census. It will be released at that point, all the time capsules will be released,” Halpin said. 

They’ll be made public with the census forms and all the notes and the information that people put into them at that point will be available to people’s descendants and to historians and members of the public in the future.

Are there questions on gender identity or sexual orientation on the census form? 

There are no questions on gender identity or sexual orientation in this year’s census. 

However, work on testing questions is taking place in smaller CSO surveys to find the best question formats that capture meaningful data, the CSO says. 

“We’re very conscious that gender identity is a very important area for many people,” Halpin said. 

“We are conscious that there is some disappointment that there’s not a question on gender identity on the census this time around,” he added. 

Explaining why the question is not being included this time, Halpin said: “We held a public consultation in 2017 to invite submissions from the public and from organisations to give us a steer on what they might want to see included on the census next time around. 

“And we did get some submissions from individuals and organisations requesting a gender identity question. We formed what was known as the census advisory group, which was a group of about 40 individuals that came from organisations that use census data.

“And as part of the deliberations between the CSO and the census advisory group, the recommendation that emerged was because gender identity is such a new area of statistical data collection, that the CSO needed to have a really robust and reliable question on gender identity, and on making sure that it was comprehensible to as many people as possible.”

The CSO has now developed a new question on gender identity which, as noted above, is included in a number of other smaller surveys.

This question on gender identity will be put forward as part of the consultation for the next census in 2027. 

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Are the census forms available in Irish and other languages?


An Irish language version of the form is available and is provided by the enumerators distributing forms. 

The enumerators also have a translation of the form in 22 different languages. However, these are provided only as a guide, as your form must be completed in either English or Irish. 

 How long does it take the CSO to sort through the data? 

Once the forms are returned to the CSO, it will spend the next six months or so processing the data. 

“By processing, we mean scanning the forms, turning the handwritten information into digital information, and ultimately creating a statistical data set that we can use to produce information from us,” Halpin explained. 

The CSO is hoping to start producing statistical releases from the census in April 2023. 

A preliminary population count will be released towards the end of June of this year. However, that won’t be the official final count, which will come out later in the year. 

How does the CSO protect individual data?

The CSO says it takes all possible security measures to make sure that census information is private.

For example: 

  • Your census form will be collected and processed by Officers of Statistics employed directly by the CSO. No-one else will have access to your census form.
  • Under the Statistics Act 1993, the census returns must be treated as strictly private and may be used only for statistical purposes.
  • All Census 2022 forms will be processed in the CSO’s census headquarters in Swords, Co Dublin, where all information is stored on a closed CSO network. This network is fully owned by the CSO. The detailed census information will not be copied or removed from this network.

People must provide their name on the census form to ensure that everyone in a household is included and to help the householder make sure that the correct personal information for each person is recorded. The name also helps to identify where forms are missing or duplicated. Names may also help identify families within households. 

You can listen to our episode of The Explainer about the census here: 

Source: The Explainer/SoundCloud

More information on this year’s census can be found over on the CSO’s census website here

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