Poverty gap in Ireland ‘is worse than in similar EU states’

ESRI says Irish rates of deprivation are 10% higher than in comparable countries

The ESRI has found that one-third of lone-parent families and one-quarter of families headed by a person with a disability were ‘persistently deprived’ during the years 2004 to 2015. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

The ESRI has found that one-third of lone-parent families and one-quarter of families headed by a person with a disability were ‘persistently deprived’ during the years 2004 to 2015. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

The gap between the poorest families and the wider population is larger in Ireland than in other comparable EU countries, and grew faster during the recession, according to a major study published on Wednesday.

The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) finds one-third of lone-parent families and one-quarter of families headed by a person with a disability were “persistently deprived” during the years 2004 to 2015. These rates are about 10 per cent higher than in 10 similar EU states.

Targeted interventions are needed, says the institute, aimed at the most vulnerable families to properly tackle child poverty.

An estimated 130,000 children are in consistent poverty here, meaning they are in households reliant on less than 60 per cent of the average industrial wage, and they consistently do without two or more items, including an adequately heated home or a break away from home once a year.

Researchers measured material deprivation across three two-year periods between 2004 and 2015 and in 11 EU countries: Ireland, Britain, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, Spain and Greece. Looking at levels over two-year periods allowed them to distinguish between groups experiencing spells of deprivation and those experiencing it persistently.

They found levels of persistent deprivation, when compared with the wider population, among lone parents and their children, and adults with a disability and their children, highest in Ireland.

Lone parents

“In all 11 countries, lone parents and adults with a disability were more likely to be deprived than other adults. On average, across the countries and the three periods, 23 per cent of lone parents and 14 per cent of adults with a disability were persistently deprived compared with 5 per cent of other working-age adults.

“The figures were much higher in Ireland where 33 per cent of lone parents and23 per cent of adults with a disability were persistently deprived.”

Vulnerable families fare “worse even in countries with low overall deprivation rates”, including Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands.

“Lone parents and adults with a disability face barriers when trying to access the labour market. Measures to address this could include access to affordable childcare, flexible work arrangements, protection of secondary benefits – such as medical cards – and support in seeking work, training and work experience.”

Lead researcher on the report Dorothy Watson said policies to reduce poverty for the population as a whole were not enough to support vulnerable groups. Proactive steps are required to address the deprivation experienced by lone parents and adults with disabilities, and also to tackle the higher rates of poverty among children in these households.

“Such interventions are particularly urgent in Ireland as the data shows the deprivation gap is more pronounced here.”