Families last year saw a fall in household income of €4,000 and new figures show a big rise in the number of cash-strapped families who are now unable to meet basic household bills.
The average gross family income fell from €60,581 in 2008 to €56,522 in 2009, according to new figures released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO). However, this is still €1,000 per annum above 2006 gross income levels and €2,000 above disposable income levels in that year.
The figures show a 7pc drop in incomes even before the Government's swingeing measures just announced in the National Recovery Plan are introduced.
The figures also reveal a quarter of all households got into arrears on their mortgage, a utility bill, rent or other loans last year – up from 10pc a year earlier.
Families earning between €21,000 and €34,000 are finding it hardest to make ends meet, with a third falling into arrears on at least one occasion.
Overall, the number of families who missed at least one mortgage repayment during 2009 doubled to 6.3pc, while more than 75pc of households said their housing costs were a burden.
A massive 48pc of households surveyed in the CSO Survey on Income and Living Conditions 2009 said they wouldn’t be able to meet an unexpected household expense of €1,000 without having to borrow.
More than one-in-10 had gone into debt to meet everyday household costs.
The drop in household income last year stemmed from a 12pc drop in average direct income – mainly wages and private pensions – which was only partially offset by an 11pc rise in social welfare payments.
Average disposable income per person after tax fell by more than €1,000 to €23,326.
But despite the drop in household income, the number of people who were at risk of poverty also fell slightly to 14.1pc.
This is because poverty is measured in relative terms, and incomes during the same period fell by similar levels across all social groups.
Nearly a fifth of children (18.6pc) remained vulnerable to poverty. More than a third of all lone-parent families were in this category.
The number of households experiencing enforced deprivation – such as not being able to afford a winter coat or to keep the home warm – increased by a quarter last year, with 29pc reporting being unable to meet at least one basic need last year.
And 39pc of people were unable to afford a week’s holiday last year, up from 30pc in 2008.
The consistent poverty rate – which measures relative poverty combined with actual deprivation – increased from 4.2pc in 2008 to 5.5pc, which the CSO noted was a significant increase.
But the number of people in “persistent poverty” – lasting at least two years –had halved since 2007 to 7.7pc last year.