57% of families in debt in 2013, CSO study finds

Ireland’s debt crisis remains a very real spectre for struggling families, with over half of all households saddled with mortgage, overdrafts and credit card debts.

The findings are contained in the first CSO Household Finance and Consumption Survey, which offers an insight into the financial state of Irish homes in 2013.

The study found that almost 57% of families were in debt in 2013, with two thirds owing money on their mortgage. The average amount of debt on this mortgage is €129,000.

However, for people aged under 35, the average debt on a mortgage is €204,000, compared to just €30,000 for households headed by a retired person.

While mortgage debt on respondents’ main residence makes up 80.3% of all debt in the west of Ireland, it accounts for only 65% of debt in Dublin.

The survey found Irish people are also still reliant on dipping into overdrafts and relying on credit cards to make ends meet.

The average amount of debt on an overdraft in 2013 was €1,000 and €1,400 for credit cards. The average amount of debt faced by struggling Irish households was €63,000.

Generally, around 10% of households had an overdraft, but this rose to 18% for self-employed people. The average overdraft for a self-employed person was €4,000, compared to €700 for an unemployed person.

More than a quarter (28%) of couples with one to three children were in debt on their credit card in 2013. It was also high for households headed by persons aged 35 to 44 (26.4%) and those headed by an employee (25.4%).

More than a quarter of families also indicated that they had applied for a loan at some stage in the last three years. Of those that applied, just over one in five were either refused entirely or only got a reduced amount of credit.

More than one in 10 households said they did not apply for a loan due to a perception they had that they were unlikely to get approved. As a result, just under one five families were listed as “credit-constrained” in 2013.

Despite significant numbers of families still living in debt, the CSO study found that home ownership levels remain high.

Just over 70% own their own main residence, either with or without a mortgage, while 10.8% of households own land and 13.8% own other property.

The survey also found that people living in the capital struggled most in terms of owning their own home, with Dublin having the lowest rate of home ownership in the country.

Only just over a quarter of households made up of one adult with children owned their own residence, while the rate was also low for households headed by a person under 35 years of age (30.2%).

In contrast, those aged 65 or older had a home ownership rate of more than 91%.

Meanwhile, a conference in Dublin on how poverty and inequality are affecting women, heard how seven out of 10 are victims of poverty and have been harder hit by the recession than men.

Policy and campaigns officer with National Women’s Council of Ireland, Alice-Mary Higgins said women were being forced into lower-paid jobs.

“ESRI figures show that women in couples experienced a 14% drop in income compared with 9% for men during the recession,” Ms Higgins said.

“And recent figures from the CSO tell us that 50% of all women workers are now earning €20,000 or less.”

“Women are being faced not just with the loss of jobs but with a dangerous erosion in the quality and security of jobs.

“Aggressive casualisation and the lack of affordable, accessible childcare are pushing more women workers into low pay and precarious part-time work.”



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