About a sixth of households were still in the poverty trap in the dying days of the economic boom, it emerged today.
Researchers found lone parent families were most vulnerable even before the recession took hold and now fear poverty rates will soar among people relying on benefits.
The study, by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), showed levels of poverty in Ireland dropped from 19% in 2004 to 16% in 2007.
Despite increases in child benefit payments and more parents working, a fifth of young children remained at risk of falling below the breadline – with 7% in consistent poverty.
The ESRI said child poverty was concentrated among lone parent families.
“In 2004, children in lone parent families accounted for 53% of children in consistent poverty, while in 2007, 65% of children in consistent poverty were in such families,” it stated.
In a survey of 13,961 people in 5,600 households, the ESRI calculated that anyone earning less than 229 euro a week in 2007 – including those dependant on benefits – was income poor.
It found the “at risk of poverty rate” among pensioners was 16%, down from 27% in 2004, and in the working age population the rate was 15%, from 17%.
Older people living alone were twice as likely to fall below the threshold than those living with a partner.
While the unemployment rate was just 4.8% in 2007 when the report was completed, it has now soared to 13.8% with 466,923 people on the dole.
Dr Helen Russell, of the ESRI, warned poverty rates will rise if people remain long-term unemployed during the recession.
“The problem is if people remain unemployed for 12 months or more they start to experience deprivation,” she added.
“If your household has nobody in employment that’s the really big risk factor.”
Community Minister Pat Carey Minister who launched the ESRI publication - Monitoring Poverty Trends in Ireland 2004-2007 – said it would inform the Government’s thinking in the lead up to Budget 2011.
He said protecting those who are most vulnerable is a priority consideration for the Government.
“The success of our economic recovery will not be judged exclusively by our ability to return to economic growth and fiscal stability,” added Mr Carey.
“It will also be judged by our capacity to emerge from our current problems as a more just, socially inclusive and equitable society.”