Friday 15 December 2017

We're healthy and wise but not very wealthy

Aideen Sheehan

Aideen Sheehan

THE Irish population is healthy but not very wealthy with prices here still higher than nearly everywhere else in Europe. A new report shows we're out-breeding, outliving and out-educating most of our neighbours, while we're also three times less likely to divorce.

But while the picture is bright from a demographic point of view as we've the most youthful population in the EU, our economy still needs work according to a new Central Statistics Office report Measuring Ireland's Progress 2013.

It highlights how people here fare compared to other Europeans in everything from crime and punishment to health, housing, the environment and the economy.

The report shows how the Irish population was one of the fastest-growing in the EU between 2003 and 2013 and Ireland had the highest fertility rate in the EU in 2012 with each woman having an average of 2.01 children in her lifetime, compared with just 1.58 in Europe.

Over a third of babies are now born outside marriage, but we're conservative when it comes to splitting up, with a divorce rate of just 0.6 per 1,000 people compared to an EU average of 1.8.

Irish people now live slightly longer than the EU average with a life expectancy of 83.2 years for women and 78.7 for men.

Spending on healthcare meanwhile averaged €2,973 per person in 2013 which was up just 7pc in real terms since 2004.

On education the report is a mixed bag.

It finds that even though we now have the third-highest number of college graduates in the EU, Irish primary pupils have to contend with some of the biggest class sizes in Europe.

There are 24.4 pupils in an average Irish primary school class compared with just over 15 in some countries, and only Britain has bigger class-sizes at 25.

However almost half of the population aged 25-34 had completed third level education which was the third highest rate in the EU, even though the worrying trend is that spending on third-level has fallen by a fifth since 2004.

And Irish people are more likely to complete their school education as just 8pc of Irish people aged 18-24 had left school with a lower secondary (Junior Cert) education compared to an EU average of 12pc.

The report shows that the Irish unemployment rate was among the highest in Europe in 2012, and the impact of the recession meant fewer than six out of 10 people of working age had a job in 2012 - though thankfully that rate has risen slightly since then.

However despite having the lowest inflation rate in Europe since 2009, Irish prices remain 20pc above average making us the fifth most expensive country in the EU, with only Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Luxembourg coming in more expensive.

However our housing debt has fallen since the days of the property boom, as the average value of a mortgage rose from €171,500 in 2004 to €270,200 in 2008 before dropping to €174,000 in 2013.

But government debt is another story as after all those bank bailouts, it's doubled from 62pc of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2009 to 123pc in 2013.

Irish GDP - the measure of goods and services produced in the economy - is now the fifth highest per capita in the EU, but if you look at Gross National Income which excludes the impact of profits that are repatriated overseas we're in a more mediocre 10th place.

The Irish workforce should take a bow as we're 36pc more productive than the EU average, which is partly down to working longer hours.

However, the gender pay gap has widened in recent years, with women now earning over 14pc less than men per hour.

The report also shows that the number of Irish people at risk of poverty was 15.7pc in 2012, which was lower than the EU average of 16.9pc.

Meanwhile, 7.7pc of the population was in consistent poverty, defined as not being able to afford basics such as meat every day or a second pair of shoes.

The number of murders and manslaughters in Ireland fell from 89 in 2008 to 83 in 2013, with a detection rate of 82pc for these offences.

However while homicide was down, the number of kidnapping and related offences increased by 57pc between 2008 and 2013, while the number of sexual offences soared by 43pc.

Robbery, extortion and hijacking offences meanwhile increased by 22pc but there was a 41pc drop in public order offences during the period.

There were over 26,000 burglary and related offences recorded in 2013, but the detection rate for these is just one in five, the CSO figures say.

Irish people are very wasteful by international standards as we produce 100kg more rubbish per person each year, and are less likely to recycle than our conscientious European neighbours.

However we're better than we used to be as while 61pc of our waste used to go into landfill a decade ago, that figure is now down to 38pc.

The scale of the building collapse in the recession is shown the fact that almost 90,000 homes were built in 2006, but this plummeted to a mere 8,300 in 2013.

While just two thirds of households had internet access in 2009, that had soared to 82pc by 2013, putting us above average in the EU.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News