Ireland now has the fastest growing population in Europe, according to the latest figures from the Central Statistics Office.

The population now stands at 4.1 million and for the first time ever, the labour force has exceeded two million. Immigration, particularly from the 10 new EU accession states, has played a significant role in both the population and labour force growth.

It's now official. Ireland has the fastest growing population in Europe.

In the year to May 2005, the population grew by 87,000, an increase of 2.2%. During this period, 70,000 immigrants settled in Ireland with EU accession states accounting for 38% of the inflow. 17% of immigrants came from Poland and a further 9% from Lithuania.

According to Aidan Punch, Senior Statistician at the Central Statistics Office (CSO), this immigration has put pressure on housing, employment and infrastructure.

In terms of the labour market specifically, over the last year around 95,000 more people were available for work. For the first time ever, the labour force now exceeds two million.

According to Gerry O’Hanlon, Director of the CSO, the two main sectors of growth were construction and financial services, contributing an additional 35,000 and 20,000 workers respectively.

Tom Kitt TD and Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, says that work is ongoing to provide the infrastructure necessary to meet the growing demand for services in the economy and society as a whole.

We see the cranes in action, we the motorways being built. We cannot do all of these things over night.

While the population growth is a sign of economic prosperity, this growth poses challenges for policymakers if this growth is to be sustainable.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 14 September 2005. The reporter is Ingrid Miley.