While we wait to hear the results of Ireland’s latest census to see how many of us there are now, the EU’s statistics office Eurostat, is telling us that Ireland’s population will rise to 6.5 million in the next 50 years.
The population boom will represent an increase of 46 per cent, and represents the biggest increase of all the countries mentioned in the report. Luxembourg and Cyprus will be hot on our heels, while Bulgaria and Latvia are set to see a drop in population of around 25 per cent each.
People living longer is expected to be a big contributory factor to the rise in Ireland’s population, and by 2060 22 percent of the people living in Ireland will be over the age of 65, while almost one tenth will be over the age of 80.
Dr Arnold Horner from UCD’s Department of Geography, Planning and Environmental Planning says that the high figures represent quite a generalised view of what may happen. He’s told TheJournal.ie that unpredictable factors like migration and birth trends may not have been taken into consideration.
He says that five years ago the figure would not have been so surprising, given that there was a significant natural increase in birth rates and a lot of immigration into the country. However he says that given the current level of emigration, the figure of 6.5 million may be “over optimistic”.
The report from Eurostat explains that the figures assume that birth rates, death rates and migration levels will “converge between Member States in the long run” and that “alternative assumptions in a different conceptual framework would yield different results.
Dr Horner says that he thinks Ireland would be able to cope with such an increase. He points to the example of Kenya, which has seen a massive population increase over the past 40 years, and says that while it may be an extreme example:
Kenya has managed to adapt and get on with its existence so you could argue that for Ireland, coping with a near-50 per cent increase is certainly possible.
The UK looks likely to overtake Germany as the most highly populated country in Europe, while the EU itself will see its population peak at 526 million in 2040.
New figures released by the Central Statistics Office in April showed that Irish women are older than ever when they give birth while Irish men could be living nearly a decade longer by 2040.