CSO survey shows rising economic tide ‘not lifting all boats’

Analysis reveals regional income disparities, especially in Border and midwest areas

Social Justice Ireland said the figures showed more than 790,000 people were living in poverty in Ireland, of which more than 250,000 are children. File photograph: Getty Images

Social Justice Ireland said the figures showed more than 790,000 people were living in poverty in Ireland, of which more than 250,000 are children. File photograph: Getty Images

 

Disposable incomes rose by about 3 per cent in 2016 but those emerging from consistent poverty were “not statistically significant”, according to data released by the Central Statistics Office.

The increases in disposable income were also geographically divided, with those in the south and east generally doing best, while incomes in the Border, midlands and western regions declined.

Fr Sean Healy of Social Justice Ireland said the figures were proof that “the rising tide is not lifting all boats”.

The CSO’s Survey of Income and Living Conditions 2016, published on Tuesday, showed “adjusted” figures for disposable income increased from €20,000 in 2015 to €20,597, an advance of 3 per cent.

The CSO said its adjusted figure took into account an individual’s disposable income and the number of people depending on that income in the household. A worker on €70,000 a year with five dependents could have a lower disposable income than someone on €40,000 a year with no dependents.

The analysis showed people living in the State’s southern and eastern region had adjusted disposable income of €21,445. This was 32 per cent higher than the comparable figure for the Border, midlands and western region, which was €17,369.

The disparity was also widening, according to the figures, with income declining in the Border, midlands and western region by 2.6 per cent on the 2015 figure, compared to a 5 per cent increase in the southern and eastern region.

Among the key findings were:

Adjusted weekly gross earnings in 2016 were €457.94, an increase of 3.8 per cent on the comparable 2015 figure of €441.

Adjusted weekly social payments – including welfare and pensions – increased by 0.4 per cent from €132.71 to €133.19.

Graduates with third-level degrees or higher continued to have the highest disposable income in 2016, although the median level fell to €31,998 from €32,201 in 2015.

Those living in households where nobody was employed had the lowest adjusted disposable income at €13,195; this was up from €13,137 in 2015.

Men fared better than women in terms of median disposable income, coming in at €20,592 or 3.4 per cent higher than their female counterparts (€19,907).

However, while disposable incomes rose on average, a slight drop in the numbers at risk of poverty, from 16.9 per cent in 2015 to 16.6 per cent in 2016, was not considered statistically significant. The survey found just over 40 per cent of lone parents were in the “at risk of poverty” category.

The most common types of deprivation were being unable to replace worn-out furniture, unable to afford a day or evening out, or being unable to have family or friends home for a meal.