ANN CAHILL: Eurostat reveals level of spending in boom years

European texting champions, post offices on every corner, eating out so often the domestic food bills were small, and leaving school early for well-paid jobs.

It’s a snapshot of the good old days in Ireland that many would not recognise any more as austerity bites.

The figures, courtesy of the Eurostat, are mostly from three and four years ago and tell their own stories of each EU country.

Ireland was on a texting mission with each person sending an average of 2,677 text messages each a year — five times the EU average and topped only by Lithuania where they have more mobile phones per citizen.

Less than a quarter of the Irish household budget was spent on housing in 2008 — slightly less than the EU average despite the still high costs of buying a property.

But perhaps the relatively low bill was due to the fact that Ireland is the only country in the EU that did not have water charges — since water together with the cost of heating and electricity is included.

Food and non-alcoholic drinks accounted for less than 10% of the household budget — the third lowest in the EU. But that may have been because so many were eating out so often.

More than an eighth or close to €14 in every €100 was going on hotels and restaurants — twice as much as in France — and just behind the other good-time high-spenders, Spain.

Culture was not a priority, as it accounted for much less of the average budget than in the EU generally, while we spent an average of €4.60 for every €100 we had on clothing and footwear — less than the EU average also.

While leaving school early became a feature of the years of a booming construction industry with lots of well-paid, low-skilled jobs, Ireland has far fewer quitting school and training courses early than the EU average.


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