A large-scale survey has found people in Ireland feature among countries with the highest subjective wellbeing in the EU, even amid the Covid-19 crisis.
Eurofound surveyed 8,700 Irish people last month and found their overall satisfaction with life and overall happiness are slightly above the EU average.
In terms of employment status, students had the lowest life satisfaction (5.2) followed by unemployed people (5.7), who usually score lowest.
Self-employed people in Ireland had somewhat higher life satisfaction than employees (6.7 vs. 6.5), while the reverse was true in the EU overall (6.2 vs. 6.4) and retired people had the highest (7.4).
On the other hand, optimism about the future among respondents in Ireland remained high in comparison to most other countries: 59% of respondents (compared with 45% in the EU overall) said that they were optimistic about their own future. When asked about their children’s or grandchildren’s future, 55% were optimistic (compared with 33% of EU respondents overall).
As expected, people who were unemployed were the least likely to be optimistic (48%).
Irish respondents scored 63 on the mental well-being scale of 0-100 – the third highest in the EU after Denmark and Luxembourg – compared to the EU average of 59.
Despite cocooning measures put in place by the government for older groups, people aged 50 or older had the highest mental well-being (65), followed by those aged 35–49 (63), while the youngest group aged 18–34 had the lowest (59). Students were among those with the lowest mental well-being (58), even lower than that of the unemployed (62).
While anxiety about health and the economy spread across Europe, Irish respondents were found to be less likely to say they felt tense ‘all or most of the time’ than on average in the EU (13% vs. 18%), but feeling tense was much more common among young people (20%). Irish respondents were also
less likely than the EU average to feel downhearted and depressed (9% vs. 13%) and despite the introduction of restrictions in Ireland earlier than other countries, they reported feeling lonely less often (12% vs. 16%). However, 22% of people living on their own felt lonely all or most of the time.
Nearly a third (32%) of Irish respondents reported they lost their jobs (or contracts in the case of self-employed) either temporarily or permanently due to the COVID-19 crisis. This was higher than EU respondents reported overall (28%).
Both in Ireland and the EU on average, self-employed respondents were more often affected by job/contract loss (72% of people who lost their job were self-employed).
15% of working respondents in Ireland said it is ‘very likely’ or ‘rather likely’ that they would lose their job in the next three months, which is around the same as the EU average (16%).
Almost half of Irish respondents (46%) said their working hours had decreased, while 20% experienced an increase in their working hours. Women among Irish respondents were more likely to have had their working hours increase than men (22% vs 19%).
Among Irish respondents still working, work–life balance was reported to be somewhat better than the EU average on both family and work-related measures. Among working respondents, Irish men were more often worried about work when not working, but Irish women were more often too tired after work to do the necessary household jobs than men, and they also more often found it difficult to concentrate on their job or give it enough time.
Working from home with children present may account for at least some of the gender differences, with women on average continuing to do more housework and childcare, while for some workers it may have improved work–life balance. Fewer respondents in Ireland than in other countries worked
from home regularly before the outbreak (13% did so at least several times a week compared with 17% in the EU), but 43% started teleworking as a result of Covid-19, higher than the EU average (37%). A third (33%) of working people with children under 12 in the household also started working
from home. Of all those respondents working from home in Ireland at present, nearly a third (32% vs. 26% in the EU on average) live in households with children under 12, with another 10% living with children aged 12–17.
16% of respondents in Ireland reported difficulties making ends meet, which is less than the EU average (23%). A greater proportion of self-employed people had such difficulties (26%), even more than those unemployed (23%).
Over a third of Irish respondents (36%) said their financial situation was worse than three months ago, similar to the EU average (38%). The same proportion of people expected that over the next three months their financial situation would deteriorate.
Irish respondents were more likely to have at least some savings than the EU average, with 22% having no savings at all (28% in the EU overall). About a third of respondents (35%) said their savings would be enough to keep the household going for up to three months, and 11% stated they could afford to live off their savings for a year or more, which is less than the EU average at 14%. Self-employed people had savings more than others with just 18% having none, and they were on average in a better situation than the self-employed in the EU (23% of self-employed in the EU overall had no savings).
People aged 50 or over were most likely to have savings in Ireland (just 18% had none compared to 28% in the EU), with most of this group having enough to last up to three months, while people aged 35–49 were most likely to have no savings at all (30%, same as the EU average).
Almost one in ten Irish respondents (9%) was unable to pay their rent or their mortgage: again, this was more common among self-employed (18%) and unemployed people (22%). In addition, 7% of respondents in Ireland thought it was likely that they would have to leave their accommodation in the next few months because they could no longer afford it. Accommodation insecurity and arrears in Ireland were similar to average EU levels in this survey.