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Household Income

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Average gross household income nearly €1,100 per week 

The average gross weekly household income for the State in 2015-2016 was €1,099.70, which was 7.1% higher than the €1,026.77 figure recorded in 2009-2010. Total direct income increased by 11.6% from €809.56 to €903.48 and accounted for most of this rise. State transfer payments decreased by 9.7% from €217.20 to €196.22.  See table 2.1. 

Income tax and social insurance deductions increased by 33.4% over the period from €141.05 to €188.14. This reflects the overall increase in direct income and also an increase in taxation levels since the previous HBS.

Disposable income (which is arrived at after the deduction of income tax and social insurance) increased by 2.9% from €885.72 to €911.55.

Table 2.1 Average weekly household income and taxation, 2009-2010 and 2015-2016

Gap between high-income and low-income households narrows

The gap between the highest and lowest income households narrowed between the 2009-2010 and 2015-2016 Surveys.  Households in the lowest income decile (i.e. those with a gross weekly income less than or equal to €252.21) had an average weekly disposable income of €197.40 compared with €2,229.05 for those in the highest income decile (i.e. those with a gross weekly income greater than €2,163.17).  The ratio of the highest to the lowest household disposable incomes was approximately 11 to 1 in 2015-2016 compared with 12 to 1 in 2009-2010.  See table 2.2.

Table 2.2 Average weekly disposable income by gross household income deciles, 2009-2010 and 2015-2016

The average weekly disposable income of households in the top income decile decreased by 2.6% from the €2,289.38 recorded in 2009-2010 to €2,229.05 in 2015-2016.  Disposable income in the lowest income decile increased by 4.5% from €188.91 to €197.40.  This, together with a decrease in the number of persons in these households, contributed to a considerable increase (14.6%) in the per capita income of households in the lowest income decile over the five year period.  The average household size for the highest income decile increased since 2009-2010 which contributed to the decrease of 4.9% in per capita income of these households.  

State transfers main source of income for those in lowest income deciles

Nearly 86% of the average gross household income of households in the lowest income decile was made up of state transfers.  The percentage of gross household income made up of state transfers remained over 50% up to and including the third decile where 64% of gross household income was made up of State transfers.  See figure 2.1.

After the third decile, state transfers fell to less than half of the gross household income and to under 4% for the top income decile.

Over 39% of persons in the lowest income decile were aged 65 years or older compared with 3.5% in the highest decile. State transfers in the form of Older people pensions and Widows, Widowers & Guardian payments were the main source of income for those in the lowest income decile, accounting for 47.7% of gross income for households in the lowest income decile and just 0.7% for those in the highest income decile.

Households in the higher income deciles received the largest payments of Child benefit reflecting the greater number of children in households in this decile.  For example, households in the highest income decile received €52.20 per week, which was over eighteen times the amount received by households in the lowest income decile.

The contribution of Jobseekers’ payments (including farm assist) to Total state transfers declined from 24.4% in 2009-2010 to 18.3% in 2015-2016, reflecting the decline in unemployment since 2009-2010.

X-axis labelState transfersDirect income
1st Decile85.614.4
2nd Decile64.835.2
3rd Decile6436
4th Decile46.253.8
5th Decile30.669.4
6th Decile20.679.4
7th Decile15.484.6
8th Decile9.890.2
9th Decile5.994.1
10th Decile3.596.5

Mortgage holders are highest earners

Households in accommodation owned with a mortgage reported the highest gross weekly income at €1,557.86, which was 7.8 % more than the €1,444.87 recorded in 2009-2010.  Direct income was the main source of income for these households, accounting for over 91% of gross income. See table 2.3.

Table 2.3 Average weekly gross household income by household tenure, 2009-2010 and 2015-2016

Households in accommodation rented from private owners reported the highest increase in gross weekly income at 18.7%.  Direct income accounted for 82.4% of gross income for these households in 2015-2016 compared with 72.6% five years earlier.  In 2015-2016, 45.6% of persons in households rented from private owner were self-classified as working, up from 36.1% in 2009-2010.  See figure 2.2.

Households rented from a local authority had the lowest average weekly gross household income at €495.57.  State transfers were the main source of income in these households, accounting for nearly two-thirds (66.4%) of gross income.  Less than 21% of persons in these households classified themselves as unemployed.

X-axis labelHousehold tenure
Owned Outright33.6
Owned with Mortgage48.8
Rented from local authority17.4
Rented from private owner45.6
Rent free40
All household tenure40.7

Households consisting of 2 adults with 1-3 children have largest increase in gross income

In 2015-2016, gross household income increased across all household types. Households comprising of 2 adults with 1-3 children had the largest increase in average weekly gross income since 2009-2010.  Direct income increased by over 7%  percentage points over this period to 88.9%.  This reflects the increase in persons in these household types self-classifying themselves as employed, up from 32.6% in 2009-2010 to 40.1% in 2015-2016.  See table 2.4.

Table 2.4 Average weekly gross household income by household composition, 2009-2010 and 2015-2016

Households comprising of 1 Adult with children had an average weekly gross income of €558.48, an increase of 8.5% on the 2009-2010 figure of €514.65.  Total state transfers contributed to 56.8% of lone parent households’ total gross income.  This is due to the fact that 57.8% of lone parent households self-reported themselves as either unemployed or not economically active.  The same figure was 8.4% for households comprising of 2 Adults with 1-3 children.  See table 2.4 and figure 2.3.

X-axis labelHousehold Composition
1 adult35
1 adult with children16.3
2 adults46.5
2 adults with 1-3 children40.1
3 + adults49.9
Other households with children30
All household compositions40.7

Nominally, and on a per capita basis, households comprising of 2 Adults with 1-3 children paid the most Income tax and social insurance at €300.23 per week compared with lone parent households who paid €33.44.  On a per adult capita basis, households with 2 Adults with 1-3 children paid the most Income tax and social insurance.

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Disposable income exceeds expenditure in 2015-2016

In 2015-2016, average weekly household disposable income exceeded average expenditure (€911.55 per week versus €837.47). This is similar in trend to results of the 2004-2005 and 2009-2010 HBS surveys.  See figure 2.4.

X-axis labelDisposable incomeTotal expenditure

When one compares disposable income and expenditure across the various income decile groups, we see a split in the deciles.  The average weekly disposable income for households in the sixth highest income deciles (i.e. those with a gross weekly income in excess of €700.70) exceeded expenditure.  On the other hand, households in the remaining deciles (the four lowest) recorded higher expenditure than disposable income.  See figure 2.5.

X-axis labelAverage weekly disposable incomeAverage weekly expenditure
1st Decile197.4304.91
2nd Decile324.4396.03
3rd Decile465.86502.89
4th Decile593.56607.35
5th Decile725.85700.77
6th Decile865.88822.69
7th Decile1026.46927.78
8th Decile1215.551108.8
9th Decile1473.251304.85
10th Decile2229.051699.93

There are many reasons why expenditure may exceed income in lower income decile households and this is a common experience internationally in income and expenditure surveys.  Households with recently unemployed household members may draw on savings to maintain their expenditures.  Self-employed consumers may experience business losses that result in low incomes, but are able to maintain expenditure by borrowing or relying on savings.  Third level students may get by on loans or savings from summer employment, retirees may rely on savings and investments.  In addition, across all deciles there may be an under-reporting of certain categories of income (e.g. shadow economy employment income).

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The Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC) in Ireland is an annual household survey conducted by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) and covers a broad range of topics in relation to income and living conditions.  It is the official source of data on household and individual income and also provides a number of key national poverty indicators, such as the at risk of poverty rate, the consistent poverty rate and rates of enforced deprivation.

The HBS also provides information on income but it is used primarily for categorical purposes (e.g. for analysis of households according to different levels of disposable income) rather than the provision of information on income levels.  The table 2.5 below contains some of the key income indicators as calculated using income data collected in the HBS and  the 2015 SILC survey. 

Table 2.5 Average weekly household income, SILC and HBS

When interpreting these figures it is important to take note of a number of important methodological differences:

The SILC collects income data based on the 12-month period prior to the date of interview (i.e. floating reference period) and makes adjustments for the employment activity of the individual over that 12-month period.  The HBS on the other hand calculates income based on income received during the 2015 calendar year.

The HBS income data is centered around June/July 2015.  The data collection period for the 2015 SILC was based on the calendar year.  Given the floating income reference period for SILC, income data actually relates to a 24-month period, in effect entering the SILC income data around January of the reference year, i.e. six months earlier than that for the HBS.

Income categorised as direct income and state transfers differ between the two surveys.  For example, in SILC employers’ social insurance contributions are included in the calculation of direct income while these contributions are ignored when calculating HBS direct income.  Occupational pension income is categorised as direct income in the HBS, whereas this income is categorised as a state transfers in the SILC.  In calculating disposable income, the SILC deducts regular inter-household cash transfers paid from gross income and the value of regular inter-household cash transfers paid is included in total tax and social contributions.  Regular inter-household cash transfers paid are treated as expenditure in the HBS and no adjustment is made to income to account for these transfers.

The SILC is recognised as the primary source of data on income in Ireland.

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