Irish News

Wednesday 30 July 2014

We live longer, have more babies, but we're still one of EU's priciest countries

Aideen Sheehan

Published 22/01/2014|02:30

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Ireland was the only country in Europe where prices fell between 2008 and 2012

IRELAND was the only country in Europe where prices fell between 2008 and 2012 - but it remained one of the most expensive.

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A new Central Statistics Office report looks at how the country is faring on a range of things from class sizes to life expectancy, to divorce and crime rates.

It shows that while we were the second dearest country in the European Union in 2008, with prices 30pc above average, falling costs since then means we were down to 15pc above average in 2012, making us the fifth most expensive overall.

When it came to work, the Irish employment rate fell from 69.1pc of the working age population in 2007 to 58.8pc in 2012, while our unemployment rate of 15pc was also the fifth worst in the EU.

Irish workers are 43pc more productive than average in Europe, partly because we work longer hours, according to the CSO report Measuring Ireland's Progress.

The number of people who were at risk of poverty because of low incomes was 15pc in 2011, which was below the EU rate of 17pc.

Half of those surveyed were in consistent poverty where they experience actual deprivation such as not being able to afford warm clothes or a Sunday roast, and those numbers were on the rise.

Government debt, meanwhile, soared from 44pc of GDP in 2008 to 117pc in 2012, the fourth highest in the EU.

The deficit between the state's income and spending was 8.2pc of GDP in 2012, which was the third largest in the EU but a fraction of its level of more than 30pc just two years earlier.

Irish primary school class sizes are the second highest in the EU with 24.1 pupils on average, but the early school leaver rate is better than average and so is the number of young people with a third-level education.

However, while education spending increased by 16pc at primary level between 2003 and 2012, and by 11.6pc at secondary level, it fell by 20pc per student at third level.

Ireland has a very favourable demographic profile, with the highest fertility rate and the second lowest divorce rate in the EU, while we also have the highest proportion of young people and the second lowest proportion of old people.

We're living longer as well, as life expectancy at birth increased to 78.6 years for men - nearly two years higher than the EU average - while women can expect to live to 83, which is 0.4 years more than the EU average.

We're also less likely to be murdered, because the homicide rate dropped by more than 40pc from 132 in 2007 to 79 in 2012.

However the number of sexual offences soared by 50pc and the number of robbery, extortion and hijacking offences that were reported rose by 30pc.

Irish Independent

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