is Poverty? | Types of Poverty | Causes
of Poverty | Effects of Poverty
References | More
What is Poverty?
"People are living in poverty if their income and resources
(material, cultural and social) are so inadequate as to preclude
them from having a standard of living which is regarded as acceptable
by Irish society generally. As a result of inadequate income and
other resources people may be excluded and marginalised from participating
in activities which are considered the norm for other people in society."
This is the Irish Government's definition of poverty in its National
Action Plan for Social Inclusion 2007-20161.
What it means is that people are living in poverty if they do not have
enough money to do the things that most people in Ireland take for
granted. Poverty can mean not having the money to buy enough food for
your family, not being able to afford to heat your home in winter or
having to buy second-hand clothes because you can't afford new ones.
Poverty is more than not having the money for material things. It can
also mean that you don't have the money for social activities like going
to the cinema or having a meal out with friends or to have a holiday.
This can lead to people feeling cut off from the rest of society because
they don't have the money to participate.
Types of Poverty
In Ireland, data on poverty is collected and published by the Central
Statistics Office (CSO). Two measures of poverty are used by the CSO
to calculate the rate of poverty in Ireland: at
risk of poverty and
At Risk of Poverty
This type of poverty is also known as relative poverty.
This means having an income that is below 60% of the median income
(the median is the mid-point on the scale of incomes in Ireland). In
2010, that was an income of below €207.57 a
week for an adult2.
This means having an income below 60% of the median and also experiencing enforced
deprivation. This means being on a low income and not being able
to afford basic necessities such as new clothes, not having the money
to buy food such as meat or fish, not being able to heat your home,
or having to go into debt to pay ordinary household bills.
the Measuring Poverty page for more information on the different ways
poverty can be measured.
Causes of Poverty
There are a number of structural factors that contribute to
the existence of poverty. The uneven distribution of economic resources
such as wealth, employment and infrastructure, and of social resources
like health services, education, transport and housing, means that not
all people have the same opportunities.
There are also other factors that make people more likely to be
poor. One single factor might not be significant on its own, but when
these factors are combined they increase the risk of poverty. Factors
contributing to poverty include:
Work: being unemployed or in a low-paid job makes
people more likely to be poor.
Age: many older people and children whose parents
are poor are at greater risk of poverty than the general population.
Health: people with long-term illnesses or who are
disabled are at greater risk of poverty.
Education: people who left school early or without
qualifications are more likely to experience poverty.
Family: one-parent families are more likely to be
poor than two-parent families or single people.
Location: living in a disadvantaged community or
in an area with few employment opportunities increases the risk of
The Effects of Poverty
Poverty has a negative effect on people's quality of life, on the
opportunities open to them, and on their ability to participate fully
in society. It can be difficult to break out of the cycle of poverty,
as poor children are more likely to become poor adults. Poverty impacts
on every aspect of a person's life:
Money and Debt: many people who work in low-paid
or insecure employment earn a wage that is not adequate to cover the
basic costs of living for themselves and their families. Others are
dependent on social welfare payments, whether because they are elderly,
unemployed, a carer, a lone parent, or have a disability or long-term
illness. When people find themselves unable to make ends meet on a
low income, they often get into debt. For many people in poverty, access
to mainstream financial services can be difficult, so they are more
likely to borrow from moneylenders who charge a far higher rate of
interest than banks or credit unions3.
Education: growing up in poverty can
affect people's future: children who grow up in poor families are more
likely to leave school early and without qualifications, and to end
up unemployed or in low-paid jobs - which means that they are more
likely to be poor as adults4.
Health: people who live in poverty are at greater
risk of poor mental and physical health: they get sick more often and
die younger than people who are better-off. Factors such as an inadequate
diet, a higher rate of chronic illness, a lower level of participation
in sport and leisure activities5, and a generally lower quality of life
all contribute to lower levels of health and well-being among people
who experience poverty6.
Housing: people in poverty are more likely to be
dependent on the State to meet their housing needs, whether through
subsidised private-rented accommodation or social housing. They are
also at greater risk of living in sub-standard
accommodation and of becoming homeless.
Social Exclusion: poverty can prevent people from participating
as equals in society, from feeling part of their community and
from developing their skills and talents. This process is often called
For children growing up in poor families, poverty
can mean not having the things their friends have, not being able to
go on school trips, or having to get a part-time job to support the
family. This can often lead to problems like bullying because poverty
makes it harder to fit in7.
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- National Action Plan for Social Inclusion (Government of Ireland,
2007) - available at www.socialinclusion.ie/documents/NAPinclusionReportPDF.pdf
- EU Survey on Income and Living Conditions 2009 (Central
Statistics Office, November 2010) - available at http://www.cso.ie/releasespublications/documents/silc/Current/silc.pdf
- Financial Exclusion in Ireland: an exploratory
study and policy review (Combat Poverty Agency, 2006) - available at www.combatpoverty.ie/publications/FinancialExclusionInIreland_2006.pdf
- EU Survey on Income and Living Conditions: intergenerational
transmission of poverty 2005 (Central Statistics Office, August 2007) - available
- Fair Play? Sport and social disadvantage in
Ireland (Economic and
Social Research Institute, 2006) - summary available at www.esri.ie/UserFiles/publications/20061205141407/BKMNINT190_ES.pdf
- Poor Prescriptions: poverty and access to community
health services (Combat Poverty Agency, 2007) - summary available at www.combatpoverty.ie/publications/PoorPrescriptions_Summary_2007.pdf
- Against All Odds: family life on a low income (Combat Poverty Agency,
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Our website: the Poverty
in Ireland section has comprehensive information on poverty and social
exclusion in Ireland.
Our publications: go to our online publications
catalogue where you
can search for publications by subject.
Our library: our library has an extensive collection
of resources on poverty and social exclusion.
Other websites: go to our links page
for listings of other sources of information on poverty and social exclusion.