2009 data on household living conditions published

The CSO has just released the 2009 results of its annual Survey of Income and Living Conditions. SILC 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 accompanying press release highlights a number of the key findings.


The 2009 results showed a decrease in average gross household income of almost 7% between 2008 and 2009. This was attributable to a decline in average direct income of 12%, which was partially offset by an average increase in social transfers of 11% over the year.

There was no statistically significant change in the at risk of poverty rate which was 14.1% in 2009. The fact that there was a fall in income between 2008 and 2009, but no change in the risk of poverty rate, is indicative of the fact that the decline in income occurred right across the income distribution and the rates of decline were broadly similar. In fact, the calculated Gini coefficient in the report shows a steady decline (indicating greater equality) in the equivalised individual disposable income between 2006 and 2009.

The level of enforced deprivation increased by more than 25% between 2008 and 2009 with more than 17% of the population experiencing at least two forms of enforced deprivation in 2009. The increase in the level of enforced deprivation resulted in an increase in the consistent poverty rate from 4.2% in 2008 to 5.5% in 2009.

A rather striking finding is that almost a quarter of all households were in arrears with at least one bill or loan on at least one occasion in 2009. This compares with a figure of just over 10% in 2008. More than 11% of households stated that they had to go into debt in the twelve months prior to the date of interview to meet ordinary living expenses while almost 48% of households did not have the ability to meet an unexpected expense of approximately €1,000 without borrowing in 2009.

There is obviously a wealth of detailed information in this report, but one graphic stands out. Net incomes fell for households where the head of household was at work or engaged in home duties, but they increased for households where the head of household was unemployed, retired or not at work due to illness or disability.


17 replies on “2009 data on household living conditions published”

Is the difference in directionality for the various groups on that final graph really statistically significant?

What struck me about this data during the week that despite the recession, in 2009 both nominal and real income were above 2006 — the peak year of the bubble.

Of course 86% of the workforce are in jobs and life has hardly changed for a lot of them.

It’s a pity that the CSO doesn’t provide median income data.

The US Census Bureau announced in Sept that real median household income in the United States in 2009 was $49,777 (half the number of households are below this level), not statistically different from the 2008 median.

The official poverty rate in 2009 was 14.3 percent, up from 13.2 percent in 2008 — the second statistically significant annual increase in the poverty rate since 2004.

There were 43.6 million people in poverty in 2009, up from 39.8 million in 2008 — the third consecutive annual increase.

As defined by the Office of Management and Budget and updated for inflation using the Consumer Price Index, the weighted average poverty threshold for a family of four in 2009 was $21,954 – – seems like the breadline to me.

US per capita personal income (personal income divided by population) fell 2.6 percent nationally in 2009 to $39,138, after rising 2.0 per cent in 2008. It was the first decline in 40 years.


I find the at risk of poverty rate interesting. Its a relative measure. The rate is stable just because incomes have declined overall. I think in these deflationary times the material deprivation rate is more relevant.

@ Michael Hennigan

The CSO provide median income data to Eurostat. Ireland is a bit slower than most countries in that regard. Hopefully it will be up soon.

Actual I found median incomes. They are a bit concealed. Search for at risk of poverty thresholds and you can then use that.

2008 2009
Irish def €20,758 €20,758
EU def €22,995 €22,445

These are equivalised, and after taxes and transfers for EU anyway. Have to check for Irish methodology

Enough is enough. Though my grandfather Patrick O’Neill of Caherciveen was armed Sinn Fein and my grandfather Thomas Moran of Cashel was the Fine Gael that protects the independence of our Civil law, our Courts and our civil service: I have the good fortune of being a second cousin of David Moran, the late Seamus Brennan’s able advisor and I am a second cousin of psychiatrist Paul Moran. I was in the same national school class as the brother in law of Michael Martin. And everyone around me put President Robinson into office. I would welcome Michael Martin taking the wheel of the nation today. But all I want to know now is what is the date of our election Mr. Gormley? I would like to see the U.N. focus of Labour and the Gospels approach of Fine Gael taking us out of this. I have worked for Nomura Bank and I have worked all over the world and I have studied history at U.C.C. I now work with child wellbeing, jurisprudence and special needs wellbeing. This is a serious situation and it needs a new level of seriousness. This march today is an educated, concerned people asking what is the date of the election we seek? mise le meas, Paul Moran

Sorry for multiple postings, I can’t edit last post.

Irish def
2008: €20,758
2009: €20,106

These are after tax, and equivalised. The EU and Ireland treat pension income differently, and home production. Equivilisation gives children a lower value that adults. So a household earning €100,000 with 4 adults has a lower equivalised income than a household with 2 adults and 2 children and €100,000. Children don’t need as much money as adults.

Anyone been able to divine whether there is an unadjusted figure for median household income in there? I’ve always have difficulty finding this for Ireland, which is frustrating because it is a key figure for international house prices comparisons.

@ BeeCeeTee

If you want it for research you could get it from the microdata, but it isn’t available to private citizens for privacy reasons.

Is it possible for someone to post a figure similar to Figure 1 above separately for single households and couples? I find the numbers for students etc. to be unbelievably high – I can’t imagine state transfers are enough to explain these average weekly salaries of circa 600 euro.

I presume that the definition of head of household does not require that the person be the principal earner so I imagine that figure gives a misleading impression of the incomes of these groups. Maybe theres also a figure showing amounts for households where both people are engaged in the same activity?

I agree that with incomes falling, the deprivation rates are probably the most useful.

In that regard, what jumps out is how much lower deprivation rates are for households containing one or two over 65s than other household types. Table 3.3 shows a 2+ deprivation rate for children (2 or more deprivation indicators experienced) of 23% compared to 9% for those aged 65+ and 16% for those aged 18-64; the average is 17% for the population. 2008 figures were 18%, 9%, 13% and 14% respectively, indicating rises for everyone except the over 65s.

This pattern is echoed in the consistent poverty rate (which takes relative income into account as well as deprivation), e.g. Table 4.2.

This all raises questions about protecting pensions at the expense of all else.


I assume you mean that the microdata isn’t available to citizens for privacy reasons.

It’s just surprising that a figure for median household income that is available for most other developed countries is not available for Ireland, when it’s such an important figure for international comparisons.

I couldn’t justify the effort to analyse the microdata myself, even if I had access to it.

@ Aedín

I’m not certain for Ireland, but across Europe childhood poverty is usually due to single-parent families.

Yes, thats what I meant. I think they could give the percentiles 1 to 99. It would make a nice graph. I don’t know why they don’t, if would still be private.

Also, regarding cross time comparisons. We must remember to account for inflation, and that poor people have a different basket of items to the rich.

Aedin, one contributory factor to the lower deprivation rates amongst the 65+ group may be that some of these deprivation indicators refer to the presence (or absence) of certain houesehold durables. Its possible that for life-cycle reasons the 65+ group are more likely to have these durables, whereas younger age groups might not have purchased them yet.

Interesting to see the comments re the suitability of the absolute versus the relative poverty measures. This issue was also debated during the boom years. It seems to me that relative measures work best when the economy is plodding along at a respectable 2-3% growth per annum. But since we seem capabale of only boom or bust, the absolute/deprivation measure is probably more useful for us.

Meantime, despite data like this and articles in the papers today mentioning that couples with two kids are as well off on welfare as working, and the fact that the country is dependent on the IMF and the EU for funding, we have unions parading through Dublin asserting that there is a fairer way. There probably is a fairer way, but it’d include steps the unions wouldn’t like at all.

At least people like Jack O’C are occasionally clear enough in saying that they are representing their members’ interests.

It’s a real pity for the quality of debate in Ireland that so many on the left seem to think that Jack and Begg are representing everyone’s interests.

They’re not.


As these data are based on sample surveys, the question of statistical significance of any year-on-year changes is a reasonable one. The report states that “Changes in proportions presented in this publication are only noted if they are statistically significant using a 95% confidence interval” and in this case they are.

I guess i could try and work this out myself if I had the will and the time but is the last chart likely to be a composition effect – clearly there was a large transfer of people from the employed to non-employed categories in 2009…..

@Hugh Sheehy – “…so many on the left seem to think that Jack and Begg are representing everyone’s interests. They’re not.”

Oh yes they are. Their own.

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