In the Spring 2011 census forms from households across Fermanagh were collected. The initial analysis of this information has been now been collated and released, giving a snapshot of County Fermanagh and its people.
The census information is important as it determines the needs of communities, assisting with planning social initiatives and programmes and government interventions. For those interested in human geography, economics, social policy or politics the census results provides a wealth of information to delve into and examine.
Fermanagh's population continues to grow with an increase in the population of over 9% since 2001 to 61,805 people registered in the Spring of 2011.
In recent weeks the headlines have centred on the changing religious balance amongst the population and what does that mean in terms of the constitutional debate. All very interesting but what is clear is the 61,805 people registered in the census in Fermanagh will have to share this place for many years to come. Surely it is time for our politicians to realise that we have been sharing this place for hundreds of years and will continue to do so for hundreds more!
This is particularly clear when you look at the question on national identity with 33.39% of the population identifying themselves as Irish, 31.93% as British and 23.94% as Northern Irish. People also had the opportunity to tick more than one box for the national identity question and nearly 6% did this. 4.8% of Fermanagh's population identified themselves as having a national identity other than Irish, British or Northern Irish.
Is Fermanagh a multicultural society? The answer is no - 84% of all the people living in Fermanagh were born in Northern Ireland, over 4,000 people, 6.6% were born in the Republic of Ireland, 5.45 % born in Britain and 2.53% born in other EU countries with the majority from the EU accession countries of 2004 onwards including Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. 1.2% of the population were born outside the European Union.
Fermanagh's population is getting older in relative terms with over 9,500 retirement benefit claimants. There has also been a big increase in the number of people registered in receipt of other benefits including disability living allowance and multiple disability benefit claimants.
Outside the population and national identity information the website www.nisra.gov.uk provides access to some fascinating information.
Fermanagh remains a largely agricultural based economy with over 5000 people registered as employed in the agricultural labour force. What is interesting is the decline in the number of farms in Fermanagh with a decrease from 3,734 farms in 1999 to 2,980 farms today a decline of over 20% in 12 years. Nearly 85% of all Fermanagh's farms are ranked as very small. The importance of agriculture can be seen when you consider there are 2.5 cattle for every person in the County!
Information is also available on a range of social indicators. This includes the number of teenage births which has declined by over 50% between 1999 and 2010. The number of marriages in Fermanagh has also increased significantly with 460 couples married in 2011 compared to 275 in 2001.
As mentioned previously the census and related information should feed directly into the planning of a range of government interventions, including pre-school provision, schools, health support, etc. In some cases the population changes can take place quite quickly that the system has not put in place the provision required. One interesting debate which is currently taking place is the future education needs here in terms of schools and school provision by 2025. Some believe there will be a decline in the number of young people going to school in Fermanagh by 2025. Others question this analysis, based on the birth rates and the increase in recent years of the numbers of couples getting married. Hopefully the education planners get there information correct otherwise children may not be able to access their local school in their local community!
The census and related statistics provides a wealth of information, which will be examined time and again by researchers, students and planners over the next 10 years, providing us with a real insight into our communities.