Relative Poverty Rates


The National Anti-Poverty Strategy (NAPS) offers the following definition of poverty:

"People are living in poverty, if their income and resources (material, cultural and social) are so inadequate as to preclude them from having a standard of living, which is regarded as acceptable by Irish society generally. As a result of inadequate income and resources people may be excluded and marginalised from participating in activities which are considered the norm for other people in society."

At risk of Poverty/Relative Poverty

People or households are considered to be at risk of poverty when their income is less than a particular threshold. In the EU, the threshold has been set at 60% of the median income (mid-point in the scale of the highest to the lowest of all incomes in Ireland). Between 2008 and 2013, median disposable income for an individual dropped from €20,758 to €18,148 but began to increase again in 2014 and in 2016 reached €20,597 per annum. In 2017, this figure slightly increased again to €20,869. The the 60% at risk of poverty threshold in 2017 was €12,521. (or €239.95 per week).

Whether those below the 60% threshold are actually experiencing poverty will depend on a number of factors. These include:

  • The degree to which income is below the relevant thresholds;
  • The length of time on this relatively low income – a long period can lead to real deprivation, as a person’s assets run down and cannot be fully maintained or replaced;
  • Possession and use of other assets, especially one’s own home.
At Risk of Poverty Statistics
  • The risk-of poverty level increased from 14.1% in 2009 to 17.3% in 2012 and in 2017 there was a decrease to 15.7%. .
  • The at risk of poverty rate for households with one adult and one or more children aged under 18 was 39.9% in 2017.
  • Those most at risk of poverty in 2017 were those individuals who were unemployed (42.0%) and individuals living in households where there was no person at work (40.3%) It was 35.4% for people not at work due to illness or disability. You were also at much higher risk of poverty if living in accommodation which you were renting at below the market value or rent free. This includes people living in social housing.
  • Social Transfers (e.g. state pensions, child benefit, Jobseekers and other social welfare payments) are very effective tools for reducing poverty. In 2017, if all social transfers were excluded from income, the at risk of poverty rate would have been 43.8%, a decrease from the 2016 rate of 44.9%..
Poverty and Socio-Demographic Characteristics

While prior to the crisis overall at-risk of poverty rates had been consistently decreasing, between 2009 and 2012 these figures increased from 14.1% to 17.3%. It fell to 16.5% in 2013, rose to 17.2% in 2014 and was at 16.5% in 2016, with a drop to 15.7% in 2017. Consistent poverty rose from 4.2% in 2008 to 9.1% in 2013 before falling to 8.3% in 2016 and dropped to 6.7% in 2017. Material deprivation increased from 13.7% in 2008 to a shocking 30.5% of households in 2013 but has fallen to 21% in 2016 and was at a rate 18.8% as of 2017. Household composition and socio-demographic characteristics, however, maintained a very significant influence on the risk of poverty. The Central Statistics Office have devised a series of indicators that are considered significant in determining whether a person is at risk of poverty such as age, employment status, number of dependents, level of education and tenure status. It does not cover some groups such as ethnic minorities, including Travellers or people with disabilities as a specific group.

In 2016 the at risk of poverty rates for people living in rural areas, single parent households, children and those who were unemployed, including because of illness or disability, people with low levels of education and people renting at below the market rate remained consistently high.

At Risk of Poverty Rate by Household Composition

Household Composition

At Risk of Poverty Rate 2008%

At Risk of Poverty Rate 2017%

1 adult aged 65+ 11.0 10.0
1 adult aged <65 25.7 34.2
2 adults, at least 1 aged 65+ 10.0 9.2
2 adults, both aged <65 14.2 11.9
3 or more adults 8.7 13.7
1 adult with children aged under 18 36.4 39.9
2 adults with 1-3 children aged under 18 11.0 9.4
Other households with children under 18 16.0 24.4
Poverty Rates by Demographic Characteristics and Year

At Risk of Poverty Rate 2008 %

At Risk of Poverty Rate 2017 %

Male 14.0 15.0
Female 14.9 16.4
Age Group    
0 – 17 18.0 18.4
18 – 64 13.5 16.2
65+ 11.1 8.6
Principal Economic Status (aged 16 years and over)    
At Work 6.7 5.4
Unemployed 23.0 42.0
Student 23.4 35.4
Home Duties 21.7 25.5
Retired 10.8 9.1
Not at Work due to Illness or Disability 25.5 35.4
Highest education level attained (aged 16 years and over)    
Primary or Below 22.3 23.4
Lower Secondary 16.7 23.1
Higher Secondary 12.6 16.6
Post Leaving Cert 10.7 17.5
Third Level Non-Degree 4.9 10.2
Third Level Degree or Above 5.5 6.1
Numbers of People at Work    
0 32.7 40.3
1 15.7 17.1
2 5.1 3.2
3+ 4.2 2.1
Tenure Status    
Owner Occupied 11.4 9.9
Rented at the market rate 11.7 26.2
Rented at below the market rate or rent free 29.6
Urban/rural location    
Urban areas 11.9 15.1


Rural areas 18.7 17.2


Full document available on the Central Statistics Office website: