Friday, November 26, 2010

The Real Irish Debt Problem

With Ireland's government's recent announcement of its programme of spending cuts we should note that almost a quarter of all Irish households were in arrears on at least one bill or loan last year and 60 per cent said they had difficulty making ends meet. Gross and disposable household incomes fell in 2009 ( down 6.7 per cent and 6.3 per cent respectively). The survey shows the deprivation rate rose to 17.3 per cent last year, up from 13.8 per cent in 2008. The two items people reported being most deprived of were the replacement of worn-out furniture and being able to afford to go out in the preceding fortnight.

Households are increasingly dependent on State payments. Some 27 per cent of household income came from social transfers, such as unemployment benefit, disability benefit or children’s allowance, up from 22 per cent in 2008. State payments loom larger in importance in poorer families. They account for 91 per cent of income in the lowest-earning 10 per cent of the population. However, even in the highest earning 10 per cent, they account for almost 10 per cent of income.

24 per cent of households were in arrears with mortgage payments, utility bills or other loans or bills; this compares to just 10 per cent in 2008. Among those at risk at poverty, the proportion of people in arrears rises to one-third, up from 20 per cent in 2008. One in 10 households was behind on gas or electricity bills, and one in 20 was in arrears on the rent or mortgage. Only half of those surveyed said they would be able to meet an unexpected expense of about €1,000 without borrowing.

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