Census to assign biological sex randomly for those who do not declare as male or female

CSO working on way to introduce question on gender identity for 2027 census

People who choose not to declare themselves as male or female in this year's census will have a biological sex assigned to them on a random basis, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) has said.

In advice on its website for answering questions in the forthcoming census on Sunday, April 3rd, the CSO has updated its position on how it will treat people who opt not to describe themselves as male or female.

The fact that the census will not ask people about their gender identity but will ask them about their biological sex is something that the CSO is aware is a sensitive issue for a minority of people, a spokeswoman said.

She said that the random allocation of sex to those who chose not to declare themselves as male or female would not have a statistical impact.


In advice on answering census questions on its website, the CSO said that almost all the information in a census is analysed by age and sex.

European Union legislation requires that a question on biological sex is asked and dictates that “the only answers that can be provided are male and female”.

People who are uncomfortable about ticking one of these options may signal this by marking both of them, according to the CSO website.

“However, for statistical analysis purposes all entries will be assigned a sex. Where this is not clearly indicated on a census form it will be assigned at random.”

The website says the CSO “recognises the importance of accounting for gender identity as distinct from sex”, and that work is actively under way to introduce a question on gender identity for the next census.

As part of this work the CSO is testing questions on gender identity in its Labour Force and Pulse surveys in order to devise a way of asking the appropriate question and providing for the “appropriate range of answers”.

Asking questions by way of the Labour Force and Pulse surveys allows the office get feedback on how it is dealing with the issue, she said.

There will be a public consultation later this year on what questions should go into the census after the one scheduled for April, the spokeswoman said.

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent