Housing and utility costs in Ireland are rising at one of the fastest rates across the European Union, according to new figures published on Tuesday, which also show that we spend more on alcohol - but less on clothes - than other European households.
Between 2006 and 2016, the proportion of Irish households' expenditure that went on housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels, rose by 3.8 percentage points, according to Eurostat, behind only Portgual (+4.5pp); Spain (+4.3pp) and Finland (+4.1pp). By comparison, the proportion spent by households fell in Slovakia (-2.3pp); Poland (-0.9pp); Malta (-0.8pp) and Germany (-0.6pp).
However, despite the soaring cost of housing and rents in Ireland, Irish households spent less than a quarter (24%) of their expenditure on housing and utilities, less than that in Denmark (29.1%), Finland (28.4%) and the United Kingdom (27.1%). At the opposite end of the scale, the lowest proportion of household expenditure spent on housing was recorded in Malta (10.3%), ahead of Lithuania (15.6%), Cyprus (15.9%), Estonia (17.6%) and Portugal (18.8%).
The figures show that households spent over € 2 400 billion, equivalent to 16.4 per cent of EU GDP, on these costs in 2016, “ by far the most significant expenditure of EU households.” Eurostat said.
What do we spend our money on?
While we might have a reputation for being flahulach, Irish households actually spend less than EU averages in a number of areas. When it comes to food for example, we spend just 8.2 per cent, below the EU average of 11.1 per cent, while we also spend less on clothes and footwear (3.9% v4.9%); furnishings (4.3%v5.5%); and fuel (5% v 6.3%).
However, we are still above average spenders in many other areas. On alcohol and tobacco for example, we spend 5.6 per cent of our household income, compared to an average of 3.9 per cent, and a low of 3.9 per cent in Portugal - and a high of 8.5 per cent in Luxembourg. However the study isn’t explicit on whether this is because we consume more - or because our alcohol prices are higher.
We also spend more on restaurants - again it’s unclear whether we eat out more, or is it because of the cost - at 13.2 per cent compared to an EU average of 6.9 per cent. Spain is the only country where households spend more than Ireland on eating out, at 14.8 per cent; in Poland on the other hand, just 2.5 per cent is spent on restaurants.
And given that our broadband costs have just been shown to be among the most expensive in Europe, it may be no surprise to learn that we spend more on communications (2.6%) compared to the EU average (2.5%).