Incomes are up, but 100,000 in jobs still at risk of poverty

Household incomes have gone up, but large numbers of people are still in poverty.

The typical Irish household had an income of €20,800 last year, a rise of €500 on the previous year.

However, thousands of people continue to struggle with poverty, despite many of them having jobs, with the number of ‘working poor’ higher than 10 years ago.

Almost one in five children live in households experiencing poverty, according to figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

They show that the median, or mid-point, household income was €20,869 last year, up almost €540 from the previous year.

Disposable incomes grew for all income groups in 2017, from the poorest to the richest.

This is what remains after income taxes have been paid.

The figures also show that average disposable income increased last year.

Average household income was almost €48,500, up 4.7pc on 2016, a rise of €2,166.

However, economists argue that average income figures are too easily distorted and the median figure is a more accurate reflection of the income of households.

Statisticians calculated that 15.7pc of households were at risk of poverty last year, not much change from 2016.

This means that roughly one in six households has an income that is less than 60pc of the median.

Dr Seán Healy, of Social Justice Ireland, worked out that equates to around 760,000 people at risk of poverty.

Dr Healy said some 230,000 of those households have children, and 109,000 households are classed as being at risk of poverty despite having a job.

“The percentage of people in poverty today is higher than 10 years ago,” he added.

“Some 120,000 more people are at risk of poverty than a decade ago. The Government is not putting in place the mechanisms to tackle the working poor issue.”

Dr Healy argued that without social welfare payments, the poverty figure would be even higher.

Micheál Collins, economist at UCD Social Policy, said the figures were moving in the right direction.

He pointed to the rise in incomes and a slight fall in the numbers at risk of poverty.

However, he added that it was concerning that almost one in five children live in a household at risk of poverty.

Last year, 18.4pc of families were at risk of poverty, down slightly from a figure of 19.1pc in 2016, according to the Survey on Income and Living Conditions 2017.

St Vincent de Paul national president Kieran Stafford told how his organisation is getting 1,000 calls for help every day from worried families in the run-up to Christmas.

“The position of many people in private rented accommodation remains of grave concern,” he said. “Increasing rents mean that households are going without essentials as they prioritise their rent payments over other expenses for fear of losing their homes.”

A CSO survey on health, meanwhile, shows that a third of households find the cost of medical and dental treatments a financial burden and that 43pc of the population have private health insurance, while 45.1pc of households have a medical or a GP visitor card.

Around a third of households said they visited a GP between one and two times a year.

Two out of five people are in jobs that involve them mostly sitting. There were 12pc of those who mostly sit at work getting no exercise away from their jobs.

The World Health Organisation recommends people take two hours and 30 minutes of exercise a week.

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