A QUARTER of a million people have nothing left to live on once they have paid mortgage and electricity bills, according to a new survey which reveals the true extent of the hardship imposed on households by the recession.
And another 210,000 people are so hard-up that their income does not even cover their essential bills for heat and the cost of the home, research commissioned by the Irish League of Credit Unions shows.
Another three-quarters of a million people have on average just €70 left each month after paying essential bills, the iReach survey conducted for the Irish League of Credit Unions shows.
The research, conducted to see how much disposable income households have, found that a large number -- 428,000 -- feel there is no future for their family in this country.
Family incomes have been hit by tax changes, higher utility bills and transport costs, the research found.
Most people regard their mortgage as their most important bill, followed by electricity and gas and then groceries.
Car costs, loan repayments, credit cards and health insurance were all ranked at a similar level of importance.
The survey, conducted among 1,000 adults, found that 245,000 adults have nothing left to live on after they have paid their mortgage and utility bills.
Chief executive of the Irish League of Credit Unions, Kieron Brennan, said: "It has become more and more apparent that many Irish families are seriously struggling in what are very difficult financial times.
"We have just seen a European Central Bank rate increase last week which is likely to push families and individuals further into mortgage difficulties and arrears."
He said that increasing mortgage rates combined with increasing fuel costs, the introduction of the universal social charge and cuts in social welfare meant that 2011 will be one of the most difficult years for the Irish population in terms of money management.
The researchers estimate that around one million people have €35 left a week after paying their main bills.
These people worry about how they will cope with an unforeseen expense like a medical emergency or a big car bill.
Almost half of those who responded to the survey said they they are unlikely to have money to save in the current economic climate.