Irish poverty rates for lone parents among highest in EU

EU gender equality body says almost half of lone mothers in EU face poverty

Ireland has among the highest rates in the EU of lone parents and people with disabilities at risk of poverty and social exclusion, a new report finds.

The report published this week by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), an autonomous body of the European Union, says that every second lone parent in the 28 member states encountered poverty or exclusion in 2014.

But it says the risk of poverty or exclusion among lone parents varies from 35 per cent in Slovakia, Finland and Sweden to 58 per cent in Cyprus, Hungary, Ireland and the UK and some 69 per cent in Bulgaria.

The report finds that when compared to couples with children, parents who are bringing up a child or children without a partner face poverty “remarkably more often”.


Almost every second lone mother (49 per cent) across the EU and a third of lone fathers (32 per cent) are at risk of poverty or social exclusion, it finds.

“Lone mothers are disadvantaged in all dimensions of poverty relative to lone fathers,” the report says.

This large difference is caused mainly by the fact that lone mothers are more often living in households with low work intensity.

There is a “significant gender aspect” to this poverty issue, according to the report.

“Even when lone mothers are employed, it is not always enough to keep their house out of poverty. One of the reasons might be that they face difficulties finding full-time jobs that are flexible enough to accommodate their parenting responsibilities.”

The gaps between the poverty rates of couples with children are also “significantly wide”, at up to 38 per cent in Cyprus and the UK and 37 per cent in Belgium and Ireland.

Some 39 per cent of women and 37 per cent of men with disabilities across the EU-28 are at risk of poverty or social exclusion – some 15 percentage points higher than for the general population. In Ireland, this figure is much higher, at closer to 50 per cent for women and 55 per cent for men.

The report says working-age people with disabilities are more likely to live in households with very low work intensity (25 per cent compared to 9 per cent for people without a disability). Adults with disabilities are also more likely to be materially deprived and to more often experience monetary poverty.

It also says the poverty and social exclusion rate for migrants is higher than for the native-born EU population.

Virginia Langbakk, director of EIGE, said poverty in Europe today was more than just a lack of resources for survival. It also involved a loss of opportunities for meaningful participation in all areas of life, which could cause detachment and exclusion of such people from society.

“In an inclusive society, people’s well-being and life chances should not be pre-determined by their background, such as gender, age or ethnicity. Nor should having children become a poverty risk,” she said.

Ms Langbakk said the report showed that routes into and out of poverty or social exclusion differed for women and men.

The EU commitment to tackle poverty and exclusion is set out in the EU 2020 strategy.

In a recent pre-budget submission, the National Women’s Council of Ireland said it was crucial that established and longstanding commitments such as EU 2020 and the National Anti-Poverty Strategy, too often left aside during the recession, were not again forgotten in the recovery.