Dáil Éireann - Volume 291 - 25 May, 1976

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Limited Census.

1. Mr. J. Lynch asked the Taoiseach if, in view of the deficiency in forward social, physical and economic planning as a result of the failure to hold a national census this year and in the light of the serious unemployment situation, he will authorise the holding of even a limited census, confined, if necessary, to centres of high population, which will provide necessary statistical information and temporary employment, particularly for school and college leavers.

The Taoiseach: I am advised that it would not be possible to mount a partial census, confined to centres of high population before April, 1978. A partial census confined, say to Dublin and Cork, and thereby involving a large proportion of the total population, would be a costly operation. [2] It would be held only three years before the 1981 census for which an EEC regulation specifies the timing. It would not be justifiable to undertake two such comprehensive and costly operations only three years apart.

The lack of census data will not, in any case, lead to any serious deficiency in forward social, physical and economic planning. As I indicated in replies to previous parliamentary questions on 22nd October, 1975, and 12th May, 1976, to which I would refer the Deputy for details, a great deal of other data is available as a statistical base for planning.

In relation to demographic data, the 1975 labour force survey which was conducted on foot of an EEC regulation and the results of which will be available towards the end of this year, will provide estimates of the total population and labour force for [3] the country as a whole and for planning regions. Consideration is being given at present in the EEC to the question of conducting a further labour force survey in 1977 and, in this context, the possibility of adapting the survey to provide estimates of the total population and labour force for counties and individual large urban areas, is being examined.

I would add that the efficacy of forward planning in the various spheres is not primarily a matter of having precision in the statistical base but rather of devising and implementing policies that will promote growth in output and an expansion in employment. In these circumstances, I am satisfied that there is no need for a partial census as envisaged in the Deputy's question. Such a census would create only very limited job opportunities for school and college leavers.

Mr. J. Lynch: May I take it from the reply that by implication the Taoiseach seems to suggest that there will not be any other census on a national scale until 1981? That was a question which the Taoiseach was unable to answer specifically when I raised it on another occasion.

The Taoiseach: Yes.

Mr. J. Lynch: Obviously this is forced upon the Government by our accession to the EEC, otherwise we might not even have a census in 1981. I suggest, in view of the obvious difficulties that this Government are having in any forward planning, that the Taoiseach will now admit that the failure to have a census in this current year was an obvious blunder.

The Taoiseach: I do not accept that. The Deputy will appreciate from this reply, as well as from earlier replies, that it is not considered necessary to have a census because the actual numbers of the population are only one of the facts taken into account, and the information available in the labour force survey indicates generally the situation and any extra statistical information is not essential for any forecasts that I have mentioned.

[4] Mr. J. Lynch: Will the Taoiseach accept that there is now, and has been for a considerable time, growing concern amongst people at the lack of statistical data in this country which I believe is at the lowest possible ebb compared with any other European country, certainly any country that wishes to make economic progress. Not only is there such a concern amongst the people but amongst local authorities as well. That concern is reflected by small local communities carrying out a census themselves—the kind of census which the Taoiseach says is now impossible and too expensive. In that connection, I bring to the Taoiseach's attention the most recent one of these which I observed which was in a small suburban village of Ballincollig in County Cork last Sunday. These people thought it so important to the future of their growing community that they had, in the absence of a Government census, to undertake it themselves.

The Taoiseach: The 1975 labour force survey will provide estimates of the total population and labour force for different planning regions. There is no evidence to suggest that the information available is not adequate for any forward planning that is required.

Mr. J. Lynch: Apart from the labour force which is a very important statistic to have, are there not other vital statistics which are vital in the widest possible context of the word, such as animal population, milk production, age groups, school leavers, levels of education, rates of marriages and numbers of children being born? Are not all these statistics vital and necessary, and in their absence the Government, whatever Government will be in power, will be all the poorer in their forward planning?

The Taoiseach: The statistics of animal population are compiled annually by the Garda. This has been the practice and will continue. In addition, the local authorities have information available and keep it up to date in respect of the numbers in families in their respective areas.

Mr. J. Lynch: May I suggest to the Taoiseach that these surveys and [5] Department studies are now totally inadequate, thereby leaving this country in a very poor position statistically especially since we are not to have a comprehensive survey until 1981? May I remind him again that by the time this survey is completed it will be 1982 and that it would not be possible before 1983 to enact legislation arising from it, for example, the legislation to revise the constitutencies? Is this not another attempt by the Government to fire-proof themselves against the next election?

The Taoiseach: I would not accept the pessimistic conclusions of the Leader of the Opposition. I am sure he will agree that only on one occasion in 50 years have a party other than Fianna Fáil revised the constituencies. This was hardly too much.

Mr. J. Lynch: We did not dodge the constituencies requirement as this Government have done. We had a survey every year.

The Taoiseach: The party opposite did not revise the constituencies until after they had been taken to court.