Friday, 2 May 1986
Dáil Eireann Debate
That a sum not exceeding £13,143,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December 1986, for the  salaries and expenses of the Central Statistics Office.
The Estimate for 1986 for the Central Statistics Office of £13.1 million represents an increase of £6.9 million or 110 per cent on the provisional outturn for 1985. This exceptionally large increase is required almost entirely to provide for the 1986 Census of Population. Most of the expenditure and of the increase occurs under two subheads:
There is an increase of £1.3 million in Subhead A1 — Salaries, Wages and Allowances — due mainly to the provision of extra headquarters staff required for the census. This additional staff which will reach a peak of 176 before the end of the year, and gradually taper off in the following two years, is being provided by means of a levy on other Government Departments and the freezing of vacancies in certain non-commercial State sponsored bodies. The cost is included in the Vote for the CSO.
The very substantial increase of £5.4 million under subhead D, Collection of Statistics, is accounted for almost entirely by all the expenses arising from the field operation of taking the census. Field staff in excess of 3,500 are required for this operation. Most of the field expenditure will have been incurred by the end of this month. The total cost of the 1986 census, including preparatory work commenced last year, collection this year and total processing over several years is about £9 million. More than £6 million of this falls on this year's Vote, so that almost one half of the total Vote of £13.1 million is for the census.
While the increases for the census dominate the figures I would like to mention that provision is also included in the Estimate for servicing the recently constituted National Statistics Board, for improving computer services and the telephone system within the CSO and for improving publications.
 To return to the 1986 census, the census forms which were completed on 13 April are now being collected. As a census form must be collected for every single one of the million or so households in the State, the collection phase extends over a period of almost four weeks and will continue until about 10 May. Some 95 per cent of forms have now been collected by enumerators.
The House will be glad to hear that reports from the field staff indicate that the public are co-operating very well with the census and that no serious problems have been encountered. I would like to take this opportunity to place on the record the Government's appreciation of the wholehearted co-operation received from the public during this census.
Preliminary population figures will be available by September 1986 — these will be the total population counts, classified by sex, for each county and county borough and for each urban and rural district. When the census counts are available it will be possible to prepare firm estimates of net migration for the five-year period since the 1981 census, that is, for the difference between outward and inward migration flows for the State as a whole for that period. It will also be possible to prepare estimates of net flows across regional and county boundaries. Subsequently, preliminary tabulations in summary form will be issued for the major topics in advance of the publication of the detailed census volumes.
As for the 1981 census there will be a series of county bulletins containing preliminary results on a number of topics leading to corresponding results for each of the planning regions and for the State. The traditional series of detailed volumes of final figures, each dealing with a particular topic will also be produced. There will be ten in all.
The detailed small area statistics as in the 1981 census of population, will also be made available. The small area statistics comprise tabulations containing summary information for each district electoral division or ward, Gaeltacht areas and  each town of 1,000 population and over. They contain frequency counts of the population classified by occupation, industry, economic status, socioeconomic group, education, age, marital status, etc. Included also are counts of private households classified by number of rooms. They are supplied by the Central Statistics Office at a charge and are available on magnetic tape or in paper copy.
I have gone into this topic in some detail so that the House will be aware of the extent of the work involved in processing the census returns. The distribution and collection of the completed forms is only one part of the operation. Behind the scenes, a massive amount of work goes on for several years in order to distill as much statistical information as possible from the returns and to provide the most detailed description possible of the population commensurate with the protection of confidentiality which is absolute.
As I have already mentioned, the census accounts for almost one-half of the CSO Estimate for 1986. The other half, just under £7 million, covers all the other activities. These are almost all of an ongoing nature comprising monthly, quarterly or annual inquiries in many subject matter areas. As soon as statistics become available, they are issued in press releases which are circulated widely. Subsequently the results are made available in more permanent form in printed publication. Special efforts have been made in the past year to improve the timeliness of the quarterly publication, the Irish Statistical Bulletin. The time lag previously present has now been removed.
The principal statistical activities of the CSO are grouped under the following headings: agricultural statistics, statistics on distribution including retail sales, industrial and building statistics, national accounts and related statistics, labour statistics, including the live register, demographic statistics including the census, statistics on passenger movements and tourism, trade statistics, statistics on transport, on prices and, periodically, on household budgets and on labour costs in  the industrial and commercial sectors. I believe I should describe some of these activities in some detail so that the House will have an appreciation of the extent of the statistical services provided by the CSO and of the ongoing work necessary to maintain up-to-date weighting patterns for the various index numbers.
Let me start with agricultural statistics. Agricultural statistics include the annual sample enumeration of the areas under crops, numbers of livestock and agricultural machinery. The most recent survey was carried out in June 1985. Estimates for certain items were published in September 1985. A new regional series covering annual estimates of land utilisation and livestock numbers for each of five areas was introduced in February 1986. The regional structure adopted is that used by ACOT.
As part of the 1985 EC-wide Survey on the Structure of Agriculture Holdings, a supplementary sample inquiry, covering some 23,000 agricultural holdings, was carried out in conjunction with the June 1985 enumeration. Result will be available in the second half of this year. The 1985 survey was the fifth in a series of such surveys undertaken every two to three years since 1975 and further surveys are planned for 1987 and 1989-90. A national report covering all the surveys to date is being compiled for publication by the end of this year.
Detailed estimates of the value and volume of agricultural output, input and income arising in agriculture are compiled annually. They are included in the national accounts and the system of European economic accounts for agriculture. A major review of this series of estimates was completed last year. The review involved a re-examination of sources and methods together with a closer alignment of definitions and concepts with EC guidelines.
In order to meet national and EC statistical requirements, inquiries are undertaken to obtain information on milk and dairy products, weekly and monthly, and on slaughterings of cattle, pigs and sheep, monthly. Food and detailed agricultural  commodity balances are compiled annually. A survey on the earnings of permanent agricultural workers covering a sample of some 4,500 workers will be carried out in conjunction with the December 1986 livestock enumeration. These surveys are carried out on an EC-wide basis every second year in accordance with Directive 82/606.
Agricultural output and input price index numbers are compiled monthly. Separate details are published for the principal items of output and input. The index numbers were re-based to 1980= 100 during 1985 and the opportunity was taken to introduce some additional subindices. Seasonally adjusted index numbers for selected items were published also for the first time. The integration and harmonisation of Irish agricultural statistics with those of other member states of the EC is continuing. An essential part of this work and of the implementation of the various EC directives and regulations is the attendance of personnel at EC meetings in Luxembourg and Brussels.
Statistics on commercial activity include the important retail sales index. The index, which is published monthly, is based on a special monthly inquiry covering retail trading in which particulars of monthly sales are obtained from a voluntary panel of retail enterprises. Value and volume index numbers of the level of retail sales are published about 12 weeks after the end of the month to which they relate in both seasonally adjusted and unadjusted form.
One of the major areas of inquiry conducted by the CSO relates to industrial and building statistics. For the purposes of providing an up-to-date picture of the trends in production, employment and earnings in industry, the CSO carry out two short-term inquiries, one monthly and one quarterly. The monthly inquiry covers approximately 2,000 manufacturing establishments with 20 persons and over engaged and provides details on trends in the volume of output in over 40 sectors of industry.
A monthly industrial turnover index was introduced in October 1984. This  provides details on trends in the value of output and is published some weeks after the corresponding production index. The quarterly inquiry covers employment and earnings and hours worked in the manufacturing and mining sectors of industry. The data collected are used to compile estimates of the numbers of persons engaged and rates of earnings and hours worked in each industry.
Besides the short term inquiries there is a much more detailed census of industrial establishments, an annual inquiry which provides production and employment data as well as valuable information on capital formation, including value of stocks and work in progress, and the values of changes in fixed capital assets. This census covers about 5,500 industrial establishments with three or more persons engaged.
The building construction industry is covered by an annual census as well as by a monthly employment inquiry and a quarterly earnings and hours worked survey. Quarterly statistics relating to projects for which planning permission has been granted are also published.
The detailed annual inquiries experience particular difficulties arising from long delays in responses. Eight officers are currently serving as field officers and are engaged in contacting non-respondents and late respondents to the industrial and building inquiries. A substantial improvement in the timelines and quality of both the annual census results and the short-term series has resulted from their efforts.
Another major area of activity within the CSO relates to the preparation of the national accounts and related statistics. This draws heavily on results of most other CSO inquiries and/or additional information from a large variety of sources.
The publication National Income and Expenditure was issued during 1985. All the series in constant prices were re-based to the year 1980 in line with other European community countries. The publication incorporated more detailed  preliminary Estimates for the latest year than heretofore. It is planned to include even greater detail in the preliminary Estimates for 1985 in the forthcoming issue of National Income and Expenditure due for release in June.
The balance of international payments account is an important publication in this area. Apart from additional detailed tables covering such items as trading and investment income, Exchequer foreign borrowing and level of official external reserves, a breakdown by major monetary areas for the current account was also provided in the 1984 account issued in May 1985. Incorporated in this publication was a new quarterly series covering the years 1981-84 for both current and capital accounts. Quarterly estimates have already been published for all the quarters of 1985. As is normal practice, a considerable amount of data are furnished to the International Monetary Fund, the Statistical Office of the European Communities and the OECD on an annual basis.
External trade and tourism are important areas in relation to the balance of payments. Two statements containing provisional external trade data are published for each month. The first statement, which is issued some three weeks after the month to which it refers, gives monthly and cumulative totals for imports and exports along with monthly totals classified by section and division of the standard international trade classification. A further summary analysis of the provisional data is issued about one week later. This statement gives details of monthly and cumulative trade for each section and division compared with corresponding figures for the previous year. The statement also gives total monthly and cumulative figures for trade with our major trading partners.
More detailed figures analysed by commodities and countries along with various summary detail, unit value indices and indices of the volume of imports and exports are published in the monthly Trade Statistics of Ireland. Detailed trade data are furnished regularly to the UN Statistical Office, the OECD and the  IMF. Special returns are also supplied on request to the various sub-committees and working parties set up by these international agencies as well as to Government Departments, State agencies and foreign embassies. Special compilations of external trade data are supplied to business concerns and to other members of the public on a repayment basis.
The Irish classification for external trade statistics is fully aligned on the EC trade classification which also incorporates the second revision of the UN Stand-and International Trade Classification. Work continues at EC working groups, on co-ordinating views for the proposed harmonised commodity coding and description system of the Customs Co-operation Council. This is an effort on a world-wide basis to adapt the Customs Co-operation Council nomenclature to accommodate statistical, customs and other needs. Also on the EC front, the effects on trade statistics of the proposals for the abolition of customs formalities for goods being moved between member states after 1992, as set out in the EC White Paper entitled Completing of the International Market, are being studied.
I turn now to transport and tourism. Statistics of transport — by road, rail and sea — and tourism are also compiled and published regularly by the CSO. These include: (a) The numbers of motor vehicles registered and licensed for the first time analysed monthly; (b) An annual inquiry into the volume of activity at Irish ports; (c) A continuing survey of road freight transport activity with annual reports; (d) An opening sample passenger card inquiry and country of residence survey, operated at the principal seaports and airports to estimate the number and expenditure of visitors to this country and of Irish visitors to other countries. Summary quarterly estimates of tourist expenditure are provided for incorporation in the quarterly balance of international payments statement and a detailed annual report is prepared.
One of the most important areas of activity for the CSO relates to the production of statistics on employment, unemployment and the labour force. A very  extensive range of monthly, quarterly, semi-annual and annual statistics is compiled showing persons on the live register classified by local office, sex, age groups, occupational and industrial categories, residence, duration of continuous registration and whether in receipt of unemployment benefit or unemployment assistance. Flows on and off the live register are also compiled in conjunction with the monthly analysis by industrial categories.
Statistics in relation to employment are also provided by the annual labour force survey. The labour force surveys are large scale national household surveys carried out on a sample basis as part of an EC-wide programme, the purpose of which is to provide comparable statistics of the labour force within the Community. They are also of considerable use and importance from a national point of view, Labour force surveys have been carried out in 1975, 1977 and 1979, and annually since 1983. The data from the surveys together with indicators from the 1981 Census of Population, have been used to provide sectoral estimates of the labour force for the years 1975 to 1984. The results of the labour force survey carried out in 1985 will be available shortly. A survey is also being carried out in 1986.
The CSO are currently developing a computer based data bank of their principal economic and social statistics. Work commenced in late 1983 and has now progressed to the stage where it was released on a trial basis to a number of Government Departments and other State bodies in June 1985. The CSO data bank is managed using the computer package SAS, which is installed in the CCS Public Service Computer Centre, Kilmainham. Currently, the data bank contains approximately 5,000 time series and 3,000 cross sectional variables. The range of data is being constantly expanded. The data bank is available to any user of the public service computer centre duly authorised by CSO. The bank can be accessed in batch or interactive mode. I must emphasise to the House that there is no individualised or personal  information in the data bank — only statistical series.
This necessarily brief description of some of the main activities of the CSO will enable Deputies to have a fuller appreciation of the work of the office and of the wide scope of the statistics published.
Before I conclude, I would like to make a brief reference to the National Statistics Board. In January 1986, the National Statistics Board were established, on an interim basis, in line with the Government proposals contained in the document, “A New Institutional Structure for the CSO”, published in October, 1985. The board have met regularly since their formation.
The major issues with which the board are currently dealing are the priorities to be established in responding to the demand for official statistics, the timetables for achieving them and the staff, equipment and financial resources required by the Central Statistics Office to carry out the work involved.
In order to assist them in assessing priorities, the board are currently seeking the considered views of a large cross-section of users of official statistics and suppliers of data on the adequacy of the existing position, on the changes and improvements they would wish to see implemented and the priorities they would attach to these changes.
The board will then prepare a five year plan for Government approval concerning the resources of staff, equipment and finance, which should be made available to the CSO. Legislation to establish the National Statistics Board on a statutory basis is being prepared. This legislation will also embody needed updating of the 1926 Statistics Act.
Mr. O'Kennedy: I accept that this is a detailed presentation by the Minister. However, the Government, particularly the Taoiseach, have used statistics in a distorted way in relation to this very important matter chose to ignore the census which accounts for the huge increase in the Vote, a sum of £7 million.  It is quite extraordinary that, when a census has just been conducted in such a detailed manner, the Government should propose a referendum to change the Constitution without having the full valid data regarding marital status.
I refer in particular to the question in the census in relation to marital status and, as the Minister has indicated that preliminary population figures will be available by 1986, surely it is not only desirable but essential that the referendum proposal should not be presented to them until all the relevant facts which the census will disclose are available for considertion.
Mr. O'Kennedy: You will appreciate, nonetheless, that we are dealing with very considerable expenditure on the Central Statistics Office, especially in relation to the census, and there is a suggestion from the Government that the referendum to change the Constitution will apparently be taken in June. It would be remiss of me not to point out that the public are entitled to the full facts which the census will disclose in relation to marital status. I will not argue the issues of the referendum, but figures have been publicly presented by different groups and, in view of the detail of the census, we should not have the referendum until——
Mr. O'Kennedy: The figures will be available in September and that would be an appropriate time to consider holding a referendum so that people would know all the facts and they would not be voting on the basis of speculation or influenced by groups of all shades of opinion. We all wish to have an informed debate on this issue and such a debate can only take place when we know the facts which will emerge from the census. Any other decision on the part of the Government is  irresponsible and an affront to the people having regard to the expenditure incurred in this very detailed census.
For the first time we will also have clarification in regard to emigration which is a matter of great concern. The Taoiseach has a habit of distorting statistics and I heard him do so recently on television to the point of absurdity. For someone who claims to have a certain facility and precision in regard to statistics, it is a matter for concern that he should distort statistics.
In relation to emigration, everybody is aware of its extent, particularly over the past two years, and this can be verified by constant checking with the consular departments of the United States and Canadian embassies and particularly the Australian embassy. Even personal inquiries will disclose that the number of visas issues by the United States embassy over the past 12 months or thereabouts was in excess of 40,000. Taken in conjunction with those issued by the Canadian and Australian embassies, it is clear that the drain from the country is a matter of most serious proportions. Three or four weeks ago at Kennedy Airport in New York I observed a jumbo load of young Irish people queuing up to go through the immigration desk.
Mr. O'Kennedy: What I have stated is a fact but in the face of that the Taoiseach is trying to convey the notion that the  Higher Education Authority survey suggests that the level of emigration is not anything in excess of 5,000 or 6,000. The Taoiseach presents sources that cannot and do not tell the full story to try to support the case that the level of emigration is not frighteningly horrific. I am pleased that we will get the full facts. They will expose the Taoiseach as, once again, the most consummate professional in distorting statistics who has ever graced, if that is the word, the House.
Mr. O'Kennedy: I am anxious to put on record that the figure in each of the last 12 months — in the last 12 months in particular — will be shown to be not less than 20,000. In fact, when the figures are released, the number I have quoted will be shown to be very conservative. The Government ignore statistics. I hope they do not do so in regard to the referendum because this has been a very costly exercise. The Government, and the Taoiseach in particular, distort the statistics.
The Minister of State referred to the relationship with the EC statistics office and I am glad that surveys being conducted in relation to the structures in farm holdings and being fed to that office. Facts will emerge from that survey which will enable the Government to take a much stronger position in relation to the principles of the EC, notably in regard to the Common Agricultural Policy. Already it has been established from the  statistics that in the past two decades the numbers directly employed in agriculture throughout the Community dropped from 20 million to less than seven million. When those figures are collated they will demonstrate that not only is the trend continuing but has been aggravated by recent events. What we are witnessing in Ireland and throughout Europe is the displacing of the people from the land. Those people are moving to our cities where the opportunity for gainful and productive employment is no longer available to them, particularly in Ireland. I hope when the figures are published the Government will use them to good effect, something they have not done recently because they allowed the very principles of the Common Agricultural Policy——
An Ceann Comhairle: At this stage I should like to state for the record that I regard the Deputy as not being in order. He is making a policy speech out of statistics. The debate is about the mechanics of gathering statistics.
An Ceann Comhairle: There is another time and place for that. They can be dealt with under the Estimates for Agriculture or Industry and Commerce. The Deputy has one minute to conclude and I do not propose to stop him.
Mr. O'Kennedy: I am talking about the structure of agricultural holdings which was a major element in what the Minister referred to. When the results of that survey emerge they will demonstrate that there has been a drastic change here which will oblige the Government to make a stronger case in the interests of the agricultural community. I feel obliged to call on the European Community to adhere to the principles they have acknowledged.
Mr. O'Kennedy: I should like to refer  to the labour force survey. I suggest it is vitally important that, in addition to the current patterns of the labour force survey, we should have a clear indication of the number of people engaged in permanent employment, not just signing on the register. The latter figure does not tell the full story of those who are permanently employed. That figure, conveniently from the Government's point of view, excludes the fact that a very large number who are not permanently employed are engaged on short-term Government schemes funded through the National Manpower Service or AnCO. I suggest that we will not have a proper picture of the chronic condition of unemployment here until the Government include in the labour force survey a question asking the person surveyed if he or she is in permanent and secure employment as distinct from a three month or six month job. The figure of 240,000 on the live register distorts the true position because we have no indication of the number who are not in fulltime employment and are engaged on different schemes.
Mr. O'Kennedy: The latest available figures that the Minister for Finance  could give me were those from 1983 with regard to Ireland and elsewhere. It is totally unacceptable that when one tries to get an indication of the levels of taxation and so on——
|Last Updated: 14/09/2010 00:27:20||Page of 17|