Death knell for many funeral homes

THE recession has not just meant the death knell for the economy, it is now even threatening the funeral business.

The spokesman for the Irish Association of Funeral Directors, (IAFD), Gus Nichols, said that he expected as many as 20 firms to either close or be forced to merge with other companies in the next year.

The old adage has it that the only two certainties in life are death and taxes, but according to Mr Nichols, who operates his own funeral directors business in Dublin, the recession has hit members in the pocket.

In addition, the death rate has slowed dramatically in the past decade, meaning fewer funerals each year, despite newer businesses opening in recent years.

The IAFD estimates that there are approximately 600 funeral homes operating in the country, many working on a part-time basis, run by families who also own pubs or shops.

Mr Nichols said that he was aware of some firms who, in the Celtic Tiger boom years, had bought expensive vehicles which they can no longer afford.

“If there are 600 firms I would be surprised if there are not 10 to 20 that might close their doors or merge with another firm. It is going to be very interesting in the next year,” he said.

While funeral homes used to deal with an average of 31,000 funerals per year 10 years ago, the slowing in the death rate has reduced that number to 27,000 a year.

Despite this, the IAFD has been receiving calls from people looking to gain a foothold in the industry, possibly because the sector is seen as recession-proof.

However, Mr Nichols said there are fewer than 600 full-time jobs in the trade throughout the country, and about 100 firms which operate full-time.

Training can also only be provided to sponsored members of the IAFD, although he said it was possible for people to take up part-time work in the sector, such as driving or grave-digging.

Meanwhile, another industry seen as recession- proof, chartered accountancy, – has also seen the impact of the recession.

New figures from the Irish Association of Chartered Accountants has shown an increase in the number of members seeking an exemption from paying union subscriptions because they feel they are unable to afford it.

The figure used to apply to around 2.5% of members, but in the past year this has grown to 8%.


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