Disposable incomes rise but 8.7% remain in ‘consistent poverty’

CSO figures show 25.5% of Irish population experienced forced deprivation in 2015

The gap between the State’s top and average incomes has narrowed, but more than one in 12 people in Ireland are still living in consistent poverty, new figures show.

The Central Statistics Office’s survey on income and living conditions shows that in 2015 median annual disposable income was €19,772, up 6.2 per cent on the previous year.

The survey showed that income was more equally distributed among the population than it was a year earlier. Income equality measures the gap between a country’s wealthiest people and everyone else.

Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar said he welcomed the figures, but poverty campaigners said the Government needed to do more to help the least well-off.


The survey shows little change in numbers falling under the “at risk of poverty rate” – a share of people whose incomes are less than 60 per cent of the national median – which went from 17.2 per cent in 2014 to 16.9 per cent in 2015.

The “consistent poverty rate” , which includes people defined as being both at risk of poverty and also experiencing “enforced deprivation”, also showed little change, going from 8.8 per cent in 2014 to 8.7 per cent in 2015.

The “at risk of poverty” rate would have been 46.3 per cent in 2015 if all social transfers, such as benefits and other welfare payments, were excluded from income.

Strong shoes

The percentage of people considered to be experiencing enforced deprivation – those who are unable to afford two or more basics such as going without heating for part of the year or being unable to afford items such as strong shoes – was 25.5 per cent in 2015, down from 29 per cent a year earlier.

The figures showed that the deprivation rate for those at risk of poverty increased slightly from 51.2 per cent in 2014 to 51.5 per cent in 2015, while the deprivation rate for those not at risk of poverty fell from 24.4 per cent to 20.3 per cent.

Individuals with third-level or higher education had the highest disposable income, while unemployed people had the lowest. Disposable income for males in 2015 was 3.7 per cent higher than for females at €20,014 compared with €19,292.

The “at risk of poverty” rate for single-parent households was 36.2 per cent.

Individuals in the southern and eastern region had disposable income of €20,436, which was 14.6 per cent higher than those living in the Border, midland and western region (€17,829).

Gini coefficient

The CSO said the Gini coefficient, which is the most commonly used measure of inequality, in 2015 was 30.8 per cent compared with 32 per cent in 2014. If there was perfect equality the Gini coefficient would be 0 per cent, while a Gini coefficient of 100 per cent would indicate total inequality.

Mr Varadkar said: “These figures demolish the argument made by some on the left that the gap between rich and poor is widening in Ireland. It is not. These numbers prove that the economic recovery is taking hold, is having a positive impact on incomes and is reducing inequality.”

However, campaign groups said more needed to be done to tackle poverty.

“One in nine children live in consistent poverty in Ireland, and almost a third of children experience deprivation, while the number of children at risk of poverty has not improved since 2010. This is not acceptable,” said Barnardos chief executive Fergus Finlay.

Social Justice Ireland said “future policy must prioritise those at the bottom of the income distribution”.

Dan Griffin

Dan Griffin

Dan Griffin is an Irish Times journalist