The gap between the richest and poorest in Ireland grew by more than 25 per cent during 2010, new figures from the Central Statistics Office show. The average income of the top 20 per cent of earners was 5.5 times greater than those in the lowest 20 per cent. In the area of income inequality, the report shows Ireland had the sixth-highest measurement within the EU.
It found that average disposable income for Irish households in 2010 was €22,168, a 5 per cent drop from the 2009 figure of €23,326. This is the lowest figure recorded since 2006.
The number of people experiencing consistent poverty rose from 5.5 per cent in 2009 to 6.2 per cent in 2010. Consistent poverty is defined as having an income of less than €10,831 during 2010 and experiencing various forms of enforced deprivation on an ongoing basis. This figure is based on 60 per cent or less of the median disposable income – €18,051 – combined with being unable to afford at least two of 11 recognised indicators of deprivation, such as sufficient heating or clothing.
There was also an increase in people at risk of poverty. This equates to a disposable income of €10,831 or less, but without indicators of enforced deprivation.
The at-risk-of-poverty rate rose from 14.1 per cent in 2009 to 15.8 per cent in 2010. The threshold which is used to define “at risk of poverty” decreased by more than 10 per cent from €12,064 in 2009 to €10,831 in 2010, following a general drop in overall incomes.
Ireland ranked 12 out of the 27 member states using the at-risk-of-poverty measure.
The highest at-risk-of-poverty rates were in Latvia and Romania (both 21 per cent).
Fr Sean Healy, of Social Justice Ireland (SJI), said the report raised huge concerns over the working poor. "More than 706,000 people are at risk of poverty, up 92,000 over two years," he said. "The working poor make up 120,000 of the 706,000. These are people who are living in households with a job and are struggling to survive."