During the good years from the beginning of the 1990s until 2008, most Irish people were financially better off, but the subsequent crisis became apparent to many. Since then, the economy has improved significantly, but a large part of the population still has to fight to get the money. Homelessness is a growing problem.
According to the organization Social Justice Ireland, 689,000 Irish people, of whom over 200,000 children and 78,000 pensioners, lived in poverty in 2019. This is a marginal improvement over 2011, despite the fact that more Irish people are working, wages have risen and the economy has grown rapidly. Without a number of grants, they would be significantly more. Of these, 111,000 had financial problems despite having a job.
- Countryaah Official Site: Official statistics for population in Ireland, including population growth, density, and estimation in next 50 years.
Many Irish people turned to charities for help. The voluntary sector is large in Ireland. In 2018, there were 10,000 registered organizations with a total of 190,000 employees (plus about half a million volunteers), plus a large number of non-registered groups. A number of organizations are partially funded by the state.
Most workers between the ages of 16 and 65 are connected to an insurance system that includes unemployment benefits, family allowances, sickness benefits, maternity benefits and old-age pensions. The cost of the insurance is shared between the state, the employee and the employer.
Employees have three waiting days before receiving sick pay. The unemployed can receive compensation (job seeker’s allowance) for up to nine months.
Women may be parental leave for 26 weeks (raised to 26 weeks from September 2020). In 2019, compensation was EUR 245 a week. In some cases, the employer enters and pays full salary during the period. Men are entitled to two weeks’ paid parental leave during the child’s first year. Both parents are entitled to take 22 weeks of unpaid parental leave until the child reaches the age of 12.
All children under 16 receive child support. It can be extended to 18 years if the child goes to school or is disabled.
Health care is mostly financed by state funds, but several of the largest hospitals are run by Catholic institutes. Irish people over 70 and those with low incomes have completely free healthcare. Others may pay a fee for, for example, primary and hospital care as well as for medicines (there is an upper limit on how much medicine may cost over a month) and several of the fees have been increased in recent years. About half the population now has private health insurance.
There are a few private hospitals, but the public hospitals also receive private patients. Costs for care have risen steadily since 1997, while dissatisfaction with the quality of care and long care queues has grown. In September 2019, almost 470,000 Irish people were waiting for a specialist doctor’s time. From time to time, the government has paid extra funding to allow patients on waiting lists to receive private care. Those who have private insurance often receive better care than those who depend on government-funded activities.
During the economic crisis, considerable savings were made in healthcare. The heavy burden on the staff that has remained has led many doctors to resign to look for jobs elsewhere. Between 2015 and 2017, at least 700 specialist doctors left Ireland. Many nurses also emigrate, many of them to Australia and the United Arab Emirates, to get better wages and better working conditions.
Ireland is the OECD country that trains the most doctors per inhabitant, but over half of the students come from other countries, a large part of them from countries outside the EU (including Canada and Malaysia). However, a large part of the latter leave Ireland after graduation, partly because they found it difficult to find a position as an AT doctor in Ireland. At the same time, many foreign doctors come to Ireland to work. In 2016, 42 percent of doctors in the country were educated in another country, according to the OECD.
The cost of pensions has risen rapidly in recent years, which is why the government is gradually raising the retirement age from 65 years to 68 years. In 2020, the retirement age was 66, but it would be increased to 67 years from 2021. One problem is that many employees have contracts that require them to retire at age 65, which means that those who do not have private pension insurance (the next two of three employees in the private sector) are forced to live on unemployment benefits until the pension starts to be paid out.
Large families with many children are not as common as before and the number of single-family homes has increased, especially in the big cities.
Most Irish people live in their own houses, but in recent years the number of people living in apartments has increased rapidly, mainly in the Dublin area (where more than half of the residents now live in multi-family houses). It has also become more common to rent their home, especially for those under 35. From the 1990s and into the 00s, housing prices rose faster in Ireland than in most other EU countries, and many Irish people were forced to borrow large sums to buy their home. When the economy then slowed down, housing prices fell quickly (see also Financial overview) and many homeowners found it difficult to pay their expensive loans and made huge losses if they had to sell their home. In recent years, rents have risen rapidly, especially in the Dublin area. They were 40 percent higher in 2019 than before the crisis.
During the years of success, too many new houses were built and as the economic crisis worsened, they became increasingly difficult to sell. Although house prices have risen since then, they were still lower than 2007. According to the 2011 census, 15 percent of all housing was empty, at the next census in 2016 the proportion had dropped to 5 percent. Housing construction has stopped, between 2011 and 2016, only 8,800 new homes were built. From 2019, however, house construction has regained momentum.
Homelessness is a growing problem. The number of people without housing increased from just over 3,200 to almost 10,400 between 2014 and 2018, according to the organization Focus Ireland. Which, however, points out that the figures do not include those living with friends and others, but who really lack a permanent home. More men than women lack their own housing. Those who are homeless can get help with temporary accommodation, including space in hostels or simple guesthouses.
Even many who have a job and a steady income are hard to afford with their own home, and some are forced to stay with their parents until their 30s.
Same-sex marriage is allowed
Divorce has been allowed since 1995. In order to get a divorce, the parties must have lived separately for at least four years. Nowadays, one third of all children are born out of wedlock. In a referendum in May 2019, voters approved a proposal to ease up the strict divorce laws (see Calendar).
In 1993, the government argued against the church’s will, the criminalization of homosexuality and the prescription of condoms (a decision that was largely motivated by the fight against HIV / AIDS). In 2011, same-sex couples were given the right to enter into partnerships, and in 2015, the Irish voted in a referendum yes to making same-sex marriage a constitutionally protected right. In July of that year, Parliament passed a law allowing transgender people over the age of 18 to be able to change their legal gender without requiring medical intervention or government approval.
The abortion ban is lifted
The influence of the Catholic Church has always been evident in the strict abortion legislation, which stated that the unborn child has the same right to life as the pregnant woman. Abortion has been prohibited by law since 1861, but in 1983 the abortion ban was written into the constitution (the so-called Eighth Supplement). An enactment of the legislation took place in 1992, which meant that it was no longer forbidden for Irish women to travel abroad to perform an abortion and it was allowed to inform about the procedure. The Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that abortion can be allowed at the risk of suicide, but it took until 2013 before it was entered into the law. Every year, several thousand Irish women travel abroad to perform abortions.
In 2010, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that it was wrong for Ireland to refuse a cancerous woman abortion. Several Irish women have turned to the UN Human Rights Committee since being denied abortion. One of the women was told during the 21st week of pregnancy that the fetus she was carrying was so badly malformed that it would not survive. A referendum on abortion was held on May 25, 2018. A parliamentary committee had previously tabled a proposal to abolish the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, to allow abortion if a woman’s life or mental and physical health is at risk, if the fetus is difficult miscarried and that abortion should be allowed until the 12th week of pregnancy. The referendum then approved a clear majority of voters to abolish the Eighth Amendment (see Calendar). The new abortion legislation was adopted in December 2018.
Heroin abuse is a problem
Heroin abuse is a major problem. In 2017, more than 10,000 people were estimated to be treated in various methadone projects for their abuse, and almost twice as many were still abusing heroin and other opioids. In the wake of drug abuse, the number of violent crimes has increased and organized crime has long been a problem.
Ban on child sex
Ireland has signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
In 2015, a law was passed that bans child labor. The responsible minister then said he hoped the new law would change the culture of child rearing in Ireland.
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with a disability.
FACTS – SOCIAL CONDITIONS
Infant Mortality: 3 per 1000 births (2018)
Percentage of HIV infected: 0.2 percent (2018)
Proportion of HIV infected among young women
0.1 percent (2018)
Proportion of HIV infected among young men: 0.1 percent (2018)
Proportion of population with access to clean water: 98.9 percent (2015)
Proportion of the population having access to toilets: 91.2 percent (2017)
Public expenditure on health care as a percentage of GDP: 7.8 percent (2015)
Public expenditure on health care per person: 4,759 US dollars (2016)
Proportion of women in parliament: 22 percent (2018)