Analysis: What are the biggest costs for Irish households?

Marita Moloney

Housing, water and fuel costs account for almost a quarter of Irish households' total expenditure, new data shows.

According to the latest figures released by Eurostat today, 23.5% of total household expenditure in 2016 was on housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels.

In somewhat of a deviation from other EU countries included in the study, the second highest category for costs was restaurants and hotels which accounted for almost 15% of spending.

These were followed by transport (13%), food and non-alcoholic beverages (10%) and other goods and services (9%).

Irish households contributed 6% of their total expenditure towards recreation and culture and 5% on health.

5.4% was used on alcohol and tobacco, which is above the EU average of 3.9% but well below the high of 8.5% spent by households in Estonia.

Of the 28 countries in the EU, Irish households contributed the second highest proportion of their income towards education at 2.6% - only 0.1% below the highest in Cyprus.

According to Eurostat's analysis on the European economy since the start of the millennium, the disposable income of households grew in the EU by 5% between 2013 and 2016.

This is a contrast to the rise of 16% in the nine years after 2000 before the financial crisis hit.

It notes that consumption patterns will naturally differ depending on income levels, country cultures and geographical locations.

Prices of goods and services vary between the EU member states, with Denmark and Luxemburg being the most expensive at 41%, followed by Sweden (35%) and Ireland, where costs are 28% higher, according to figures from 2017.

Ireland was also the most expensive state for alcohol and tobacco, at almost three quarters above the EU average.

Compare this to Lithuania, where goods and services are 40% below average.

Consumer spending here shows no sign of slowing down, with the Central Bank forecasting today that it will grow by 2.6% this year, following an increase of 1.6% last year.

Overall GDP, domestic demand and employment levels are all predicted to grow in 2018 according to the bank.

However, these positive indicators were accompanied by a warning of overheating in the economy, with the regulator cautioning that "the strength of economic growth means our economy risks hitting full capacity, which gives rise to the risk of overheating or boom-bust cycles".

“In the labour market, unemployment is approaching levels that have triggered an acceleration in wage inflation in the past."

"A corresponding erosion in domestic cost competitiveness would leave the economy dangerously exposed at a time of increasing uncertainty regarding international growth prospects,” it said.

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