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Ireland’s deprivation gap is large and has increased over time

A new study of 11 EU countries shows that Ireland has a significant and increasing gap in deprivation between vulnerable adults and other adults in society. The research, from the Economic and Social Research Institute, (published 31 January 2018), shows there is a significant and widening gap in the rate of persistent deprivation experienced by vulnerable adults, including lone parents and adults with a disability, and the rate experienced by other adults. Of the 11 EU countries studied, Ireland’s gap was the largest and increased the most during the study’s time frame of 2004-2015.

Gap between vulnerable adults and other adults in Ireland

The research measured material deprivation across 11 EU countries: Ireland, the UK, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, Spain and Greece. The research measured deprivation in three sets of two-year periods: the years of economic growth (2005-2006), recession (2008-2009) and recovery (2013-2014).  This dynamic analysis, examining the situation of individuals over two years, made it possible to distinguish persistent deprivation from deprivation that was present in just one year.

  • In Ireland, the persistent deprivation rate is 26 percentage points higher among lone parents and 14 percentage points higher for adults with a disability than for other adults. In the UK, the gap is 23 and 11 percentage points, respectively. Across the remaining nine countries, the average gap is 16 and 8 percentage points, respectively.
  • In Ireland and the UK, the persistent deprivation gap between vulnerable adults and other adults increased significantly over time. This did not happen in the other nine countries.

Deprivation is always highest among lone parents and adults with a disability

  • In all 11 countries, lone parents and adults with a disability were more likely to be deprived than other adults.
  • On average across the countries and the three periods, 23 per cent of lone parents and 14 per cent of adults with a disability were persistently deprived compared with 5 per cent of other working-age adults.
  • The figures are much higher in Ireland where 33 per cent of lone parents and 21 per cent of adults with a disability were persistently deprived.

Policy implications

  • Lone parents and adults with a disability face barriers when trying to access the labour market. Measures to address this could include access to affordable childcare, flexible work arrangements, protection of secondary benefits (e.g. medical cards), and support in seeking employment, training and work experience.

The full ESRI study may be accessed here

Social Justice Ireland's analysis of poverty and income distribution may be accessed here