There is also a considerable gap between the richest and poorest, with the top 20% of the Irish population earning almost five times as much as the bottom 20%.
Despite these inequalities, Irish people are more satisfied with their lives than the OECD average.
The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development surveyed its member countries, 35 of the wealthier nations worldwide and found that more than one in three people in those countries are within just three months’ wages of poverty.
Its How’s Life? 2017 survey also shows that in these relatively affluent societies, deep fault lines exist in the areas of age, wealth, gender and education. How’s Life? is part of the OECD Better Life Initiative, which features a range of studies and analysis about people’s wellbeing and how to measure it.
The report says that, while some aspects of wellbeing have improved since 2005, too many people are unable to share the benefits of the modest recovery that is under way in many OECD countries.
The report shows that Ireland’s average household net adjusted disposable income was below the OECD average in 2015 while average earnings were among the highest in the OECD (around US$52,000 compared to an average of $44,000). Disposable income per capita was $25,439 a year, lower than the OECD average of $30,563.
Ireland performs well in many measures of wellbeing relative to most other countries in the Better Life Index. Ireland ranks above average in jobs and earnings, housing, personal security, health, education and skills, social connections, work-life balance and environmental quality, but below average in income and wealth, and civic engagement.
The report puts Ireland’s long-term unemployment rate at 4.7%, more than twice the OECD average (although the latest Eurostat figures put it at 3.6%), but both labour market insecurity and job strain are better than average.
In Ireland, housing conditions, health status and environmental quality are generally good, while civic engagement and governance is an area of comparative weakness. 80% of Irish adults have attained at least an upper secondary education, which is above the OECD average of 75%, yet adult literacy and numeracy skills are in the lowest tier of the OECD.
Perceived social support is a clear area of comparative strength: almost 96% of the Irish population reported having friends or relatives whom they can count on in times of trouble, compared to the OECD average of 89%.
Irish people are more satisfied with their lives than the OECD average. When asked to rate their satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Irish people gave it a grade of 7.0, higher than the OECD average of 6.5.