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Poverty and Deprivation

One in four households consisting of one adult with children were in arrears on utility bills

CSO statistical publication, , 11am
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The income reference period for SILC 2021 was the calendar year 2020. Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the lives and incomes of people in Ireland over this time, it is important to note that some of the changes in poverty and deprivation estimates outlined in this chapter were likely temporary.

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In SILC 2021, the at risk of poverty rate was 11.6%, a 1.6 percentage point decrease on the 2020 estimate of 13.2%. See figure 3.1 and table 3.1.

An individual is defined as being at risk of poverty if their nominal equivalised disposable income is under the at risk of poverty threshold, i.e. 60% of the median nominal equivalised disposable income. See At Risk of Poverty Indicators Explained (PDF 717KB) .

X-axis label20202021
At Risk of Poverty13.211.6
Deprivation14.313.8
Consistent Poverty4.74
Deprivation rate for those at risk of poverty35.334.1

An analysis by socio-demographic characteristics shows that those most at risk of poverty in SILC 2021 were those individuals who described their Principal Economic Status (PES) as unable to work due to long-standing health problems (39.1%). This compares with an at risk of poverty rate of 4.4% for those that described themselves as employed.

The at risk of poverty rate for persons who stated their PES as unemployed was 23.2% in SILC 2021, a 10.0 percentage point decrease on the 2020 estimate of 33.2%. As outlined in the previous chapter, SILC respondents’ PES is self-defined at the time of interview (first six months of 2021), whereas their income reference period is the calendar year T-1, and caution should be taken in interpreting the respondents’ perception of economic activity during this period relative to their income. Measures put in place to mitigate the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis contributed to the decrease in the at risk of poverty rate for unemployed respondents. In SILC 2021, 56% of Unemployed persons had employment income in the 2020 calendar year, 16.2% received income through the Wage Support Schemes (WSS) and 38.4% received at least one Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) in 2020. See figure 3.2.

X-axis labelAt Risk of PovertyDeprivationConsistent Poverty
Employed4.48.60.9
Unemployed23.231.610.2
Retired11.87.62.3
Unable to work due to long-standing health problems39.139.619.2
Student, pupil17.4135.7
Fulfilling domestic tasks19.515.65.1

By household composition, the at risk of poverty rate was highest for persons living in households comprised of one adult aged less than 65 years (28.8%), and lowest for those living in households with three or more adults (6.1%).

The at risk of poverty rate for individuals in households with one adult and one or more children aged under 18 was 22.8%, an 8.2 percentage point decrease on the SILC 2020 estimate of 31.0%.

X-axis labelAt Risk of PovertyDeprivationConsistent Poverty
1 adult aged 65 years and over21.512.14.3
1 adult aged less than 65 years28.819.611.1
2 adults, at least 1 aged 65 years and over8.96.92.3
2 adults, both aged less than 65 years8.215.33.4
3 or more adults6.110.92.2
1 adult, with children under 18 years22.844.913.1
2 adults, with 1-3 children under 18 years9.110.73
Other households with children under 18 years13.715.13.8
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In SILC 2021, if all social transfers were excluded from income and using the standard at risk of poverty threshold (€15,158), the at risk of poverty rate would have been 38.6%.  Social transfers include income from Department of Social Protection (DSP) sources such as jobseekers related payments (including PUP), state pension, family and children related allowances, as well as other state supports such as education related allowances and housing allowances. As stated in the previous chapter, PUP is classified as a social transfer whereas WSS is classified as employee income. (see Background Notes for full details). See table 3.3.

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This enforced deprivation rate is the percentage of persons that are considered to be marginalised or deprived because they live in households that cannot afford goods and services which are considered to be the norm for other households in society. The identification of persons living in deprived households is based on a set of 11 basic deprivation indicators. Enforced deprivation is defined as not being able to afford to buy two or more of these 11 basic deprivation indicators. It should be noted that the COVID-19 pandemic and associated public health restrictions may have influenced the responses to these questions.  In SILC 2021, 13.8% of the population were defined as living in enforced deprivation. The comparable rate for SILC 2020 was 14.3%.

The deprivation rate for persons at risk of poverty was 34.1% in 2021, compared with 11.2% for those not at risk of poverty. See table 3.3.

An analysis by household composition showed that persons living in households composed of one adult and one or more children aged under 18 were most likely to be experiencing enforced deprivation (44.9%), while those living in two adult households where at least one is aged 65 or over were the least likely (6.9%).

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The most commonly experienced item of deprivation in SILC 2021 was the ‘inability to afford to replace any worn out furniture’ (16.5%), followed by being ‘unable to afford new (not second-hand) clothes’ (8.9%) and being ‘unable to afford to have family or friends for a drink or meal once a month’ (8.6%). See table 3.5a and figure 3.4.

The proportion that said they were ‘unable to afford a morning, afternoon or evening out in the last fortnight’ decreased 3.6 percentage points, from 7.4% in 2020 to 3.8% in 2021, while the proportion that were ‘unable to afford to have family or friends for a drink or meal once a month’ decreased from 10.5% in 2020 to 8.6% in 2021. It is worth noting that public health restrictions were in place during the January to June 2021 data collection period, inlcuding level 5 restirctions for over 3 months, and as a result the reduction in social deprivation measures may be temporary.

X-axis label% of Individuals
Unable to afford to replace any worn out furniture16.5
Unable to afford new (not second-hand) clothes8.9
Unable to afford to have family or friends for a drink or a meal once a month8.6
Without heating at some stage in the last year7.1
Unable to afford a morning, afternoon or evening out in last fortnight3.8
Unable to afford a roast once a week3.6
Unable to afford to buy presents for family or friends at least once a year3.4
Unable to afford to keep the home adequately warm3.2
Unable to afford two pairs of strong shoes3
Unable to afford a meal with meat chicken or fish every second day1.6
Unable to afford a warm waterproof coat1.3

Three in four persons (75.0%) experienced none of the 11 types of deprivation in 2021, an increase on the 2020 estimate of 71.4%.  While 8.2% of all persons experienced at least three of the 11 deprivation items, this rate increased to 23.6% for persons at risk of poverty. See table 3.4 and figure 3.5.

X-axis label3+ items of deprivation experienced2 items of deprivation experienced1 item of deprivation experienced0 (no deprivation)
% of individuals8.25.611.275
% of individuals at risk of poverty23.610.519.546.4
% of individuals not at risk of poverty6.2510.178.7
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The consistent poverty measure is defined as people who are both at risk of poverty and experiencing enforced deprivation.  The consistent poverty rate in SILC 2021 was 4.0%, compared with 4.7% for the previous year.  See table 3.1 & figure 3.1.

For persons of working age, the risk of poverty, deprivation and consistent poverty tends to be correlated with employment status. An analysis by PES shows that the consistent poverty rate was highest among persons unable to work due to long-standing health problems (19.2%) and the unemployed (10.2%), while it was lowest amongst those who were employed (0.9%).

Similarly, the risk of poverty, deprivation and consistent poverty tends to follow a downward trajectory as the number of employed persons within a household increase. For persons living in households where no one is at work the consistent poverty rate is 12.4%, compared with 3.5% for those living in households with one person at work, and 0.5% for those in households with two persons at work.

In terms of tenure status, the consistent poverty rate for those living in owner-occupied dwellings was 1.5% compared with 9.8% for those living in rented or rent-free accommodation. See figure 3.6.

X-axis labelAt Risk of PovertyDeprivationConsistent Poverty
Owner-occupied8.26.11.5
Rented or rent free19.8329.8
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At risk of poverty rate after deducting rent and mortgage interest is used to help analyse inequalities in housing costs and their impact on poverty risk. Using the standard at risk of poverty threshold (€15,158 in SILC 2021), if rent and mortgage interest payments were deducted from income the at risk of poverty rate would have been 19.0%, 7.4 percentage points higher than without the deduction. See the Background Notes for full technical details.

Analysis by tenure shows that after deducting rent paid, one in two (50.5%) of those that stated they lived in accommodation rented from the Local Authority would have been at risk of poverty. The at risk of poverty rate for those living in accommodation rented with other forms of social housing supports such as the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), Rent Supplement and the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS), was 59.1% when rent was deducted from disposable income. For persons living in accommodation rented without housing supports, the at risk of poverty rate 29.6% after deducting rent paid. See table 3.8 and figure 3.7.

X-axis labelAt risk of poverty rate after rent and mortgage interestAt risk of poverty rate
Owner-occupied: with outstanding mortgage7.25.2
Owner-occupied: without outstanding mortgage11.411.2
Rent free23.423.4
Rented: from Local Authority50.536.9
Rented: other forms of social housing support59.110.9
Rented: without housing supports29.69.7
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Households were asked to rate their self-perceived level of difficulty in making ends meet, with the answer options being: ‘with great difficulty’; ‘with difficulty’; ‘with some difficulty’; ‘fairly easily’; ‘easily’; ‘very easily’.

Four in ten households (42.0%) said they had at least some difficulty in making ends meet in 2021, compared with 46.5% of households in 2020.

In 2021, 5.6% of households said they experienced ‘great difficulty’ in making ends meet. Analysis by household composition showed this rate to be highest for households composed of one adult and one or more children aged under 18 (15.9%), and lowest for two adult households where at least one is aged 65 or over (2.4%). See table SIA97 and figure 3.8.

X-axis labelWith some difficultyWith difficultyWith great difficulty
1 adult aged 65+27.77.73.2
1 adult aged <6527.910.37.9
2 adults, at least 1 aged 65+24.46.62.4
2 adults, both aged <6527.88.63
3 or more adults23.97.76.9
1 adult with children aged under 1836.522.415.9
2 adults with 1-3 children aged under 1826.28.15.4
Other households with children aged under 1829.712.46.8

When the data is analysed by household disposable income quintile, it can be clearly seen that as income increases the difficulty experienced in making ends meet tends to decrease.  One in ten (10.5%) of households in the first income quintile (the 20% of households with lowest disposable income) experienced ‘great difficulty’ in making ends meet, compared with 1.4% of those in the fifth income quintile. See table SIA98 and figure 3.9.

X-axis labelVery easilyEasilyFairly easilyWith some difficultyWith difficultyWith great difficulty
Quintile 520.424.237.214.62.21.4
Quintile 49.716.339.624.96.62.9
Quintile 36.812.231.931.112.75.3
Quintile 26.711.930.731.111.87.8
Quintile 12.99.529.934.312.910.5
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Households were asked if they had arrears, i.e. failed to make a payment in time during the 12 months prior to the date of interview due to financial difficulties, on mortgage or rental payments; utility bills; hire purchase instalments or other loan payments. The answer categories were ‘yes, once’; ‘yes, twice or more’; ‘no’.

In 2021, of the 55.6% households making mortgage or rent payments, one in ten (11%) said they had arrears on mortgage or rental payments, with 8.4% failing to make a payment on time twice or more in the past 12 months. Of the 32.3% of households that indicated they have hire purchase instalments or other loan payments, a similar proportion (10.7%) had arrears, with 7.1% failing to make a payment on time twice or more in the past 12 months. Of the 99.3% households indicating they pay utility bills, 7.0%, had arrears on utility bills, with 5.4% failing to make a payment on time twice or more. See table SIA109 and figure 3.10.

X-axis labelYes, twice or moreYes, once
Arrears on mortgage or rental payments8.42.6
Arrears on utility bills5.41.6
Arrears on hire purchase instalments or other loan payments7.13.6

Analysis of arrears on mortgage or rental payments by tenure status, shows that 5.3% of owner-occupied households with an outstanding mortgage failed to make one or more payments on time in the past 12 months due to financial difficulties, compared with 16.2% of rented households.

Looking at arrears on utility bills by tenure status, shows that 3.1% of owner-occupied households missed at least one payment in the past 12 months, compared with 15.7% of rented or rent-free households. Analysis of arrears on hire purchase instalments or other loan payments by tenure shows that 5.7% of owner-occupied households with such payments had arrears in 2021, compared with 21.1% of rented or rent-free households. See table SIA110.

By household composition, of those making the relevant payments, over one in five households composed of one adult and one or more children aged under 18 had arrears on mortgage or rental payments (22.2%); utility bills (25.0%); and hire purchase instalments or other loan payments (23.3%). This compares with fewer than one in ten households consisting of two adults with one to three children under 18 with arrears on mortgage or rental payments (9.3%); utility bills (7.4%); and hire purchase instalments or other loan payments (9.4%). See table SIA109 and figure 3.11.

X-axis labelYes, twice or moreYes, once
1 adult aged 65+7.24.3
1 adult aged <656.22.1
2 adults, at least 1 aged 65+5.52.5
2 adults, both aged <658.41.6
3 or more adults11.25.4
1 adult with children aged under 1817.44.8
2 adults with 1-3 children aged under 1872.3
Other households with children aged under 188.11.6

When analysing households making mortgage or rent payments by poverty status, we see that one in five households (19.5%) that were at risk of poverty failed to make one or more mortgage or rental payments on time in last 12 months, compared with one in ten households (9.7%) not at risk of poverty.

Focusing on arrears on utility bills by poverty status, 16.0% of households at risk of poverty had arrears on utility bills, compared with 5.5% of those not at risk of poverty. Of households not experiencing deprivation, 2.8% had arrears on utility bills, while one in three (33.0%) of those experiencing deprivation had arrears, with more than one in four (27.4%) missing a payment at least twice. Similarly, 5.5% of households not in consistent poverty had arrears on utility bills, compared with 38.6% of those living in consistent poverty. See table SIA112 and figure 3.12.

X-axis labelYes, twice or moreYes, once
Not at risk of poverty4.11.4
At risk of poverty13.12.9
Not experiencing deprivation1.81
Experiencing deprivation27.45.6
Not in consistent poverty41.5
In consistent poverty353.6
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Show Table: Table 3.1 At risk of poverty, deprivation and consistent poverty rates by demographic characteristics and year

Show Table: Table 3.2 Nominal at risk of poverty thresholds by year

Show Table: Table 3.3 Key national indicators of poverty and social exclusion by year

Show Table: Table 3.4 The number of deprivation items experienced by year

Show Table: Table 3.5a Percentage of the population experiencing each type of deprivation by poverty status and year

Show Table: Table 3.5b Percentage of the population experiencing each type of deprivation by deprivation status and year

Show Table: Table 3.5c Percentage of the population experiencing each type of deprivation by consistent poverty status and year

Show Table: Table 3.6 Profile of population at risk of poverty, experiencing deprivation and in consistent poverty by demographic characteristics and year

Show Table: Table 3.7 Summary of deprivation indicators by net equivalised income decile, 2021

Show Table: Table 3.8 At risk of poverty rates after rent and mortgage interest by year

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Next chapter: Impact of COVID-19 Income Supports on Poverty