Poverty in Ireland

 

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Findings of the Survey of Income and Living Conditions (SILC) Report for 2018

 

Each year the Central Statistics Office in Ireland produces a report from the Survey of Income and Living Conditions. This report identifies income levels in Ireland and indicates the levels of poverty, deprivation and social exclusion in society. The SILC report for 2018 was released at the end of 2019. Based on this report, more than 689,000 were at risk of poverty in Ireland in 2018, of which over 200,000 were children.

 

The OLA Perspective: Human Dignity, the Common Good and Solidarity

The OLA believe that poverty is not compatible with Human Dignity or the Common Good. While people may disagree about the extent of damage done by poverty and the limits people can endure, it is clear that poverty denies those material benefits that the rest of society enjoys and causes social exclusion; in so doing, poverty is an affront to human dignity. Furthermore, social exclusion is damaging to the common good as it denies human flourishing which is of benefit to all society. We are called by the principle of solidarity to recognise that together we are all one society and should all share in the wellbeing of that society and seek to eliminate poverty.

 

What is poverty?

The definition of poverty and social exclusion adopted by the Irish Government in 1997 is as follow:

People are living in poverty if their income and resources (material, cultural and social) are so inadequate as to preclude them from having a standard of living which is regarded as acceptable by Irish society generally. As a result of inadequate income and resources people may be excluded and marginalised from participating in activities which are considered the norm for other people in society.

Based on this definition of poverty, a broadly accepted calculation adopted by the EU estimates that the income threshold for those at risk of poverty is 60% of the median income in their country.

 

Average and Middle Income according to the SILC Report

The mean or average income in Ireland in 2018 was €26,766.

The average income adds together all the incomes in the country and divides by the number of people with an income – essentially it tells us how much each person’s income would be if everybody’s income was equal. (Not everybody is in receipt of an income, for example children do not have an income as they are dependent on their parents)

Of course, incomes are varied, stretching from incomes of less than €10,000 to incomes exceeding a million euro. A more useful figure for understanding the experience of people in Ireland is the median income or middle income: it is the middle because half of people have incomes below this number and half of people have incomes above this number.

In 2018, the median income was €22,872. This means that half of all incomes in Ireland were less than €22,872.

 

Poverty and Deprivation in Ireland

Based on the calculation of 60% of the median income, €13,505 was the income threshold below which people were at risk of poverty in Ireland in 2018.

14 percent of the population were at risk of poverty in 2018 – approximately, 689,000 people. Of this number, approximately 200,000 children were living in households at risk of poverty; 111,000 people at risk of poverty were actually in employment; and 78,000 at risk of poverty were pensioners over 65 years of age.

This all indicates that overall there are 36,000 more people living at risk of poverty in Ireland today than in 2008.

15 percent of the population experienced two or more types of deprivation due to low incomes. This means that one in seven people experienced deprivation in our country in 2018. Deprivation was especially prevalent among those who were at risk of poverty, with 40.3 percent of those at risk of poverty experiencing two or more types of enforced deprivation.

The highest deprivation rate in 2018 was among single parent households at 42.7 percent.

41.6 percent of unemployed people experienced deprivation, and 36.7 percent of people who were not at work due to illness or disability were deprivation of essentials for a decent standard of living in 2018.

5.6 percent of the population experienced consistent poverty in Ireland in 2018.

42.8 percent of people living in consistent poverty reported going without heating at some stage in the last 12 months. 47.8 percent of people living in consistent poverty were unable to afford new clothes.

 

Deprivation is measured against eleven essentials for a decent standard of living, if a person is deprived of two or more of these essentials, they are considered deprived: Two pairs of strong shoes; A warm waterproof overcoat; the ability to buy new not second-hand clothes; Eat meals with meat, chicken, fish (or vegetarian equivalent) every second day; Have a roast joint or its equivalent once a week; Had to go without heating during the last year through lack of money; Keep the home adequately warm; Buy presents for family or friends at least once a year; Replace any worn out furniture; Have family or friends for a drink or meal once a month; Have a morning, afternoon or evening out in the last fortnight.

 

For a more detailed breakdown of the numbers experiencing poverty and deprivation in Ireland, the SILC report can be accessed on the CSO website:

https://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/ep/p-silc/surveyonincomeandlivingconditionssilc2018/

 

John McGeady, OLA Justice Officer – 14 January 2020