Irish households now officially wealthier than during boom

Central Bank figures also show Irish households among most indebted in Europe

Central Bank figures show the net worth of Irish households rose to a record €732 billion in the first quarter of 2018, equating to €150,768 per person. Photograph: iStockphoto/Thinkstock/Getty

Central Bank figures show the net worth of Irish households rose to a record €732 billion in the first quarter of 2018, equating to €150,768 per person. Photograph: iStockphoto/Thinkstock/Getty

 

Many won’t be feeling it but Irish households are now, on paper at least, wealthier than they were during the boom thanks to the rapid recovery in house prices.

The Central Bank’s latest quarterly financial accounts show the net worth of Irish households rose to a record €732 billion in the first quarter of 2018, equating to €150,768 per person. This eclipsed the boomtime high of €719 billion reached in the second quarter of 2007.

Household net worth is calculated by adding the total value of the housing stock and financial assets, such as savings and investments, and subtracting debt owed or liabilities.

Irish households in the 35-44 age cohort remain highly indebted, whereas younger generations have lower debt levels relative to the rest of the euro area

It rose by €6.7 billion in the first quarter of 2018, with more than half of the increase coming from rising property values. It has now risen by 70 per cent since its lowest level of €430 billion in the second quarter of 2012.

Nonetheless it is considered a crude measure of prosperity as it hides the distribution of household assets and liabilities across income groups and age categories.

Irish households in the 35-44 age cohort remain highly indebted, whereas younger generations have lower debt levels relative to the rest of the euro area.

Household debt

The Central Bank figures also indicate that while debt levels here have fallen since the low point of the crash, Irish households remain highly indebted by European standards.

Overall, Irish households owed just more than €140 billion, which equates to €28,869 per person. As a proportion of disposable income, household debt was 133 per cent, which was the lowest level recorded since 2004 but still the fourth highest in the European Union.

A new report estimates that the construction industry will be worth €21 billion to the economy this year. Photograph: Frank Miller
Housing construction not keeping up with demand: Household net worth is calculated by adding the total value of the housing stock and financial assets, such as savings and investments, and subtracting debt owed or liabilities. File photograph: Frank Miller

The euro-area average is just more than 90 per cent. Since its peak of €204.2 billion in the third quarter of 2008, household debt has fallen by 31 per cent.

Mark Cassidy, director of economics and statistics at the Central Bank, said the continued rise in household net worth largely reflected an increase in residential house prices. But he said the figures also show that household debt, a key indicator of the economy’s resilience to any potential future shocks, remained high.

The figures show Government debt stood at €233.2 billion in the first quarter, compared to a peak of €235.6 billion in the third quarter of 2014. It rose by €9.7 billion over the three-month period, partly reflecting the issuance of €6.6 billion of government debt securities.