Stark generation gap in Ireland's fortunes

The Irish Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has just published a report finding that the financial and economic crisis in Ireland has affected younger households much more than older households. The report The effect of unemployment, arrears and negative equity on consumption: Ireland in 2009/10 finds that between 2004–2005 and 2009–2010, the disposable income and consumption of households headed by someone younger than 35 fell by around 25% and 41% respectively. By contrast, where the head of the household is 55 or older, income rose by 62% and consumption by 50%.

This stark change in fortunes reflects the national-level effect of a broad pattern of hardship that Eurofound’s third European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS) has documented across the EU. The EQLS highlights that some countries – including Ireland – have been particularly affected by unemployment and in many cases that young people have fared more badly than other groups.


The ESRI research emphasises that it is the economic circumstances of Ireland’s younger households, rather than their age as such, that makes them so vulnerable. In addition to the burdens of mortgage or other debt arrears and negative equity, younger households in Ireland are particularly affected by unemployment. And the EQLS finds that a key factor in hardship is unemployment: across the EU, 80% of people living in households where at least one person is unemployed are likely to have difficulties in making ends meet.

Similarly, when figures for difficulties in meeting housing costs are explored, an age difference emerges. Across the EU27, only a little over 5% of those aged over 64 said their household had been in arrears for rent or mortgage payments over the previous 12 months. By contrast, nearly 15% of those aged between 24 and 34 had been in arrears. For those aged between 35 and 49, the figure was 13%.

Explore the EQLS data further with the online Survey Mapping Tool or read the ESRI report.

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