Occupational structure in Ireland in the nineteenth century: data sources and avenues of exploration

Jason Begley, Frank Geary, Tom Stark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper considers structural change in post-Famine Ireland through an examination of changes in the allocation of the labour force across three broad production sectors: primary, secondary and tertiary. To do so, it makes extensive use of the Irish Census of Population from 1821 to 1911 as a source of occupational information. While there are a number of concerns with these returns, outlined and explored here, the Irish census remains the most complete source of information available on male and female labour force activity and occupations in Ireland during this period. The outcome of this exercise is a picture of Irish primary, secondary and tertiary sector employment during the latter half of the nineteenth century that is consistent with that of an economy undergoing a development transition: modernising albeit slowly. While Ireland was the poorest region of the UK economy, it was one of the richer European economies in terms of GDP per head and undergoing a development transition similar to a number of European economies during this period.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-228
Number of pages22
JournalCambridge Journal of Economics
Issue number1
Early online date23 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • Census of Population
  • Economic growth
  • Labour force
  • Occupations
  • Structural change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics

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