Monday 18 November 2019

Ireland by numbers: Country beset by property and income gap as times are a-changin' but some ways still stubbornly the same

'Housing, health and childcare costs are crippling many families.' Stock Image
'Housing, health and childcare costs are crippling many families.' Stock Image
Emissions: Dairy cow numbers have risen by over 300,000 in the last five years. Stock picture

Caroline O'Doherty

Potatoes are slipping out of sight, electric vehicles are coming in view and women, in some settings, are just not being seen.

The latest 'Ireland by numbers' statistical yearbook from the CSO shows a country that is at the same time changing and staying stubbornly still.

Some of the figures confirm trends that have become familiar in the post-recession landscape of recent years.

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Planning applications, retail sales, employment levels and overseas trips have all increased as a sense of confidence returns to the economy and the consumer.

Ireland in 2018
Ireland in 2018

Others require a little more digging to understand what's driving the changes and where they are leading to.

The country's maternity hospitals are still busy - there were 61,016 births last year - but that's a fall of 11.5pc in the space of five years.

Almost 40pc of those babies were born to women aged 35 or over but more striking is the 37pc rise in births to women aged 45 or over since 2013. A total of 327 women in that age bracket welcomed a newborn last year and for 126 of them, it was their first experience of motherhood.

Cake-makers are busy too - there were 20,389 weddings last year, slightly down on 2017, but the stand-out statistic is that 49pc of the ceremonies took place outside of the main religions.

Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown
Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown
South Dublin
Dublin City

Outside of home and family, change is slower to make an impact for many women who make up just 2pc of workplace board members, 28pc of senior executives, 11.5pc of chief executives and 7.4pc of chairpersons.

The reality is, we're a small country with big variations in how we live, work, achieve and struggle.

While 40pc of adults aged 64 or younger now have a third-level qualification, there are 7pc in the same age group who progressed no further than primary school.

And while average earnings rose slightly to €38,871 last year, the bottom 20pc of the population have just 8.3pc of total income compared to the top 20pc of the population who have 39.9pc of the income.

Inequality extends beyond the monetary. Almost 18pc of the adult population reported experiencing some form of discrimination in the previous two years, the single biggest issue in society in general being ageism, accounting for 34pc of incidents.

In the workplace, the biggest issue is gender discrimination, accounting for 33pc of incidents. Those most likely to experience discrimination are people identifying as LGBTI+, one in three of whom report having suffered discriminatory behaviour or policies.

Unequal development across the country has contributed to extraordinary differences in house prices. A house in the most expensive Eircode area, Blackrock in south Dublin, commanded a median price tag of €620,000 last year which would pay for nearly 10 houses in Clones, Co Monaghan, where it was €65,000.

New development is still lopsided - of the 18,016 dwellings completed last year (a 25.3pc increase on 2017), more than one in three were built in the capital.

While 63pc of all new completions were classified as rural in 2012, the opposite was the case last year when 78pc were urban.

Some inequalities are more sectoral. Households paid a 58pc share of all environment taxes in 2018 while being responsible for 22pc of greenhouse gas emissions. Farmers paid a 1.7pc share while agriculture was responsible for 30pc of emissions.

One of the reasons for the high farm emissions is the 7.3 million cattle, both beef and dairy - an increase of almost half a million in five years.

Dairy cows accounted for more than 300,000 of the increase which is probably one of the reasons there has been a 15pc reduction in the price of a two-litre container of full fat milk over the past decade.

Shoppers have also enjoyed a 17.6pc fall in the price of a brown sliced pan over the same period and an 11.3pc drop in the cost of a 2.5kg bag of potatoes. That could help explain why potato production slumped 34pc last year.

By contrast, petrol and diesel prices rose by 18.2pc and 6.3pc respectively over the same period, although that hasn't been enough to drive a substantial switch-over to electric.

A total of 157,865 new vehicles were bought last year and just 1,222 of them were fully electric.

How many of those vehicles made cross-Border journeys isn't known but for the day that's in it, it's worth noting some other statistics.

Visitors made 10.6 million trips to Ireland last year, 3.7 million of them from the UK - some 830,000 more than five years earlier. And while Belgium had replaced the UK as our biggest EU export market, our nearest neighbours still bought €14bn of our goods last year.

Irish Independent

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