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Huge dole queues, more strikes, housing collapse -- but we're living longer

A GLOOMY picture of a country ravaged by unemployment, industrial action and belt-tightening that mirrored the worst years of the 1980s is revealed in the first official snapshot of the recession years.

During the dramatic downturn, unemployment more than doubled, numbers on the dole soared by a massive 75pc and there was more industrial action than there had been for 25 years.

While jobs haemorrhaged, the Government's spend on social welfare rose to almost 16pc of gross national income last year, a dramatic rise from 10 years previously when it stood at just 8pc.

As the property bubble burst, 86,000 construction workers lost their jobs -- the largest number to ever find themselves jobless in the once-booming sector since records began.

The data in a new Statistical Yearbook of Ireland, covering 2009 also contains some surprises -- as average hourly earnings increased slightly last year when the downturn was at its height. But the small 0.9pc pay increase across the public and private sectors was wiped out because workers were getting fewer hours.

The drop in their income meant the heady spending of the Celtic Tiger years was no more.

As people tried to make a dent in their maxed-out credit cards, the number of new cars licensed for the first time dropped by 63pc last year.

The entire retail sector suffered as the volume of sales fell by 14pc.

The hospitality sector did not escape, as Irish tourists and overseas visitors stayed at home. Overseas visits dropped by almost 12pc last year on the previous year and the total spend by visitors was down 19pc to €3bn.

The new Central Statistics Office study also reveals a society where cancer is on the rise, with 15pc more new cases diagnosed in 2008 (30,110) than in 2005.


Despite the depressing findings, there is some room for optimism as, overall, people are living longer. A baby boy or girl born in 1925 could expect to live on average to just 57 years of age but the life expectancy of those born in 2006 is almost 77 for boys and 82 for girls.

"Assuming that similar trends continue into the future, male life expectancy in Ireland may be approaching 87 years by the year 2042 and female life expectancy could be about 88 years," says the report.

The study also reveals the population has continued to grow since the last census in 2006, by more than 5pc to 4.45m. It shows that couples living together are the fastest-growing type of family and the most popular babies' names last year were Jack and Sophie.

In second place were Sean and Ava, while Daniel and Emma were the third most popular choices.

For boys, Matthew, Evan, Ben and David were bottom of the list, while Hannah, Holly, and Niamh were among the least popular of the top 25 babies' names registered last year.

Saoirse was the most unpopular option on the list for girls, although the parents who chose it for 275 little ones obviously rated it higher than names that do not make the list.

The CSO findings were published yesterday to coincide with the UN's first World Statistics Day.

Irish Independent