State of the Irish Nation

The Central Statistics Office have released Measuring Ireland’s Progress, 2005, leading some to say that Ireland is “racing ahead” of its European neighbours.
Others point out that the survey reveals Ireland has one of the highest risk-of-poverty rates in the EU.
The key findings listed by the CSO:

– Population has increased by almost 14% to over 4.1 million persons in the period 1996-2005. This was the second highest rate of increase in the EU.

– Life expectancy for males was 0.7 years above the EU average of 75.1 years but that for females was 0.5 years below the corresponding EU figure of 81.2 years.

– The proportion of persons aged 25-34 in Ireland with 3rd level education rose from 27.1% in 1999 to 39.2% in 2005, the fourth highest rate in the EU 25. The corresponding EU rate in 2005 was 28.5%.

– In 2004, Ireland had the second highest GDP per capita, expressed in terms of purchasing power standards within the EU. However, based on GNI, Ireland falls back to eighth place at around 16% above the EU average.

– Ireland remained one of the most successful EU states at attracting foreign investment, with direct inward investment flows representing 6% of GDP in 2004. This was over five times the corresponding Eurozone 12 figure of 1.1% of GDP. However, the 2004 figure was substantially lower than the 14.5% recorded for Ireland in 2003.

– The public balance in Ireland was significantly in surplus during the late 1990s. However, over the period 2000-2002 it decreased from a surplus of 4.4% of GDP to a deficit of 0.4% of GDP. In 2003 Ireland again showed a small surplus of 0.2% of GDP, which increased to 1.4% in 2004.

– The employment rate in Ireland rose from 55.1% in 1996 to 67.1% in 2005 which was higher than the EU rate of 63.8% in 2005. The employment rate for women in Ireland increased by almost 15 percentage points over the period, while the rate for men rose by over 9 percentage points. Productivity in Ireland, measured as GDP per person employed, was the second highest in the EU in 2004.

– The unemployment rate in Ireland increased slightly from a low point of 3.6% in 2001 to 4.2% in 2005. However, Ireland had the lowest unemployment rate in the EU in 2005 at less than half of the EU 25 average. The long-term unemployment rate was 1.4% in 2004, which was considerably better than the EU average of 4.1%.

– Ireland’s international trade competitiveness has deteriorated since 2000, mainly due to higher inflation and an appreciating euro.

– The proportion of Irish people at risk of poverty, after pensions and social transfer payments were taken into account, was 21% in 2004. This was one of the highest rates in the EU. The effect of pensions and social transfers on reducing the at-risk-of-poverty rate was low in Ireland compared with other EU countries. In 2002, social protection expenditure in Ireland was less than 16% of GDP. This was half of the rate in Sweden and the lowest of the EU 15 countries.

Other statistics in the report:

– The employment rate of persons aged 55-64 was higher than the EU average in 2004. However, only
33.7% of women in Ireland in this age group were in employment compared to 65.0% of men.

– Over 6% of men and over 7% of women in Ireland were in consistent poverty in 2004. Ill or disabled
people were most likely to be in consistent poverty.

– The pupil-teacher ratio at primary level in Ireland in the school year 2002/2003 was one of the highest in
the EU at 18.7. Just over half of all EU states had a pupil-teacher ratio of less than 15 at primary level.

– In 2003, 15 year old girls displayed much higher reading literacy proficiency than boys of the same age in
Ireland.

– In the first half of the 1990s, price levels in Ireland were below the EU 25 average. Since 1995, Ireland has been relatively more expensive than the EU 25 average and by 2004 our price level was over 23% above the EU average. Denmark was the only EU state with higher costs of living than Ireland in 2004.

– Ireland spent considerably less on research and development1 as a percentage of GDP/GNI than the EU average in the period 1995-2004 and as a percentage of GNI is exactly the same as it was a decade ago.

– In 2004, 19.7% of unemployed persons were in consistent poverty, compared with 1.8% of people at work. Almost 22% of ill or disabled people in Ireland were experiencing consistent poverty.

– In 1995, women’s earnings were 80% of men’s earnings in Ireland compared to 83% in the EU as a whole. By 2004 this proportion had increased to 89% in Ireland compared to an EU average of 85%

– Ireland had the seventh lowest gender pay gap of those EU countries providing data in 2004. Malta had the lowest gap, with women’s earnings at 96% of men’s earnings

– Real expenditure per student in Ireland increased by 77.1% for first level students and by 53.9% for second level students over the period 1995-2004 when measured in constant 2003 prices. However, the corresponding increase at third level over the period was a more modest 5.4%. These contrasting trends are partly explained by the trend in student numbers. The numbers of students decreased by 9.2% at first level and by 9.0% at second level between 1994/1995 and 2003/2004. However, over the same period, the number of third level students increased by over 50%

– Ireland had a student to teacher ratio of 18.7 at primary education level (ISCED 1) in 2002/2003. This was the fifth highest reported ratio in the EU. The overall student to teacher ratio for first and second level education for Ireland in 2002/2003 was 15.4.

– Over the period 1999-2005, the proportion of females aged 25-34 in Ireland with 3rd level education rose from 27.5% in 1999 to 43.7% in 2005. Over the same period, the rate for males increased more modestly from 26.7% to 34.9%. The widening gap reflects the increasing tendency for females to remain in education for longer than males.

– In 2005, 39.2% of the population aged 25-34 in Ireland had 3rd level education compared with 28.5% in the EU.

– Girls in Ireland performed much better than boys in reading literacy tests in 2003 with an average score of 530 for females compared to 501 for males. These scores combined to give Ireland the second highest reading literacy for 15 year
old students among included EU countries. Ireland was also above the OECD average in mathematical and scientific literacy.

– Almost 87% of persons aged 20-24 in 2005 had completed second level education or higher. This figure decreased for older age groups down to 41.0% of persons aged 55-64. Women of all ages in Ireland are more likely than men to have completed at least upper secondary education.

– There has been net migration into Ireland in each year during the period 1996-2005. The level of net inward migration increased from 8,000 in 1996 to 41,300 in 2002 before falling to 31,600 in 2004 and then rising substantially to
53,400 in 2005.

– The natural increase in the population was 33,500 in 2005, a substantial increase on the 1996 figure of 16,700.

– The level of annual gross emigration from Ireland decreased from 31,200 persons in 1996 to 16,600 persons in 2005. Some 26,200 persons moved to Ireland from the ten new EU countries in 2005 compared to 8,900 persons from the other EU countries excluding the UK.

– Ireland had the highest proportion of persons aged under 15 in the EU (30.7%) and the second lowest proportion of persons aged 65 and over (16.4%) in 2004.

– The number of lone parent families with children aged under 20 increased by almost 80% between 1996 and 2005. The ratio of female to male heads of household for lone parent families with children aged under 20, increased from just over 7:1 in 1996 to over 11:1 in 2005.

– There were over twice as many women aged 65 and over living alone in 2005 as there were men.

– The percentage of persons aged 65 and over living alone in 2005 was 31.9%.

– The number of murders recorded in Ireland since the 1970’s has been increasing steadily. A decrease in the number of murders was recorded in 2003 and 2004, for the first time since 1997.

– The number of private cars per 1,000 population aged 15 and over in Ireland has risen from 364 in 1995 to 495 in 2004. Ireland’s passenger car ownership rate was lower than the EU average of 555.3 in 2002.

– Central and local government expenditure (public spending) is put at 32.7% of GNI in 2004, down from 39% in 1995. Gross debt as a percentage of GNI is put at 32%.