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Thursday 2 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
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# Amárach Research
More than half of households couldn’t afford an unexpected €1,000 expense, poll finds
Nearly two-thirds of people also said they would not be able to comfortably afford energy bills if they rise again in the coming months.

NEW POLLING HAS shed light on the impact the cost of living crisis is having around Ireland with more than half of respondents saying their household would not be able to afford an unexpected, but necessary, expense of €1,000.

The survey, carried out by Amárach Research this week, asked a representative sample of over 1,500 people from across the country a range of questions about living costs.

It found that 54% of people said they would not be able to pay the unexpected €1,000 bill. A total of 39% said they could afford the cost while 7% said they did not know.

The answers provided varied significantly along gender and geographical lines with 61% of females saying they would not be able to afford the debt, versus 46% of males.

Those in Dublin expressed greater confidence in their ability to pay, with 46% saying they could afford it, versus just 31% of respondents from outside the capital.

Unsurprisingly, energy bills emerged as a chief concern as a total of 89% of respondents said it was the cost they were most worried about in a multiple-choice question.

Groceries (70%), petrol or diesel (70%) and rent or mortgages (37%) also emerged as common causes of financial anxiety.

Nearly two-thirds of people said they would not be able to comfortably afford energy bills if they rise again in Autumn. A total of 22% said they would be able to absorb another price spike and 15% said they did not know.

Again, the answers broke down noticeably differently along gender and geography lines with 70% of women saying they would struggle to absorb the additional cost, versus 57% of men. The figure for Dublin was 54% but it rose to 66% outside the capital.

The poll was carried out on Tuesday, before Electric Ireland today announced another hike in prices, its third increase in just five months.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin noted that energy prices are “off the Richter scale”, but the poll will not make for comfortable reading for the Fianna Fáil leader as it finds that just 9% of people think the government is doing enough to tackle inflation. 78% said the government wasn’t doing enough, while 14% said they did not know.

The poll also found that 44% of people said it was ‘quite difficult’ to pay household bills compared to a year ago and a further 15% said it was ‘very difficult’. However, not everyone was feeling the pinch as 33% said it was ‘quite easy’ to pay bills and 5% said it was ‘very easy’.

A total of 11% of people also said that they are behind on payments for their gas or electricity bills and the figure jumped to 15% outside Dublin.

Getting into debt has also increased with one in every three people (33%) saying they have had to borrow more money or use more credit than usual in the last month, compared to a year ago. The figure rose to 38% for women and 42% among people aged under-35.

Gerard O’Neill of Amárach said the poll results show that many people are already struggling with rising living costs.

“That stands out. It’s only the start of September and yet, already, a minority population is behind and a majority of the population are worried about what they’ll be able to afford,” he said.

O’Neill said there was an eye-catching difference between how men and women answered the questions, with many of the answers showing that females were more concerned about rising costs than their male counterparts.

“I think the cost of living is something that’s probably more salient for women, in the short run – though it’s not to say it’s not relevant to men. Whereas in the past an unemployment shock did disproportionately affect men, because of the sectors involved, with the cost of living, it’s probably something women are much more conscious of than men, at the moment,” O’Neill said.

Public sector pay

The Amárach poll also asked a series of questions on pay rises, with the results showing widespread support for public sector pay being increased.

It comes as unions are balloting members on a pay deal which would see workers get a 6.5% pay rise across two years.

The poll found that more than half of respondents (54%) thought the 6.5% increase wasn’t enough. A total of 29% said the offer should be increased by indexing public sector pay to the rate of inflation each year (inflation dropped slightly in August but is still running at 8.9%, its highest level since the 1980s).

A quarter of respondents said the offer should be increased to 10% over two years while 24% said the increase should be 6.5%, even if this is rejected by the unions.

A total of 11% of people said the 6.5% offer should be withdrawn and there should be no increase. A further 11% said they did not know.

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