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Average household receives €327 per week in social welfare payments

87 per cent of households now receive some kind of payment from the government in the form of child benefit, State pension or another social welfare payment.

THE NUMBER OF households receiving some form of payment from the government  - including child benefit, State pension and social welfare payments – has increased to 87 per cent, according to new figures.

The average value of the payments – known as ‘social transfers’ – is €327 per household each week, according to research carried out by the ESRI and the Department of Social Protection.

The report found that the average income from social transfers has increased dramatically since the recession back, rising from just €233 per week in 2004.

By comparison, the average income per week from earnings in a household is €939.

The report found that the amount of household income made up by social transfers has increased significantly – from 20 per cent of total income in 2004 to 30 per cent in 2011. This is attributed to the rise in unemployment, leading to more people receiving unemployment-related payments, and to the fall in market incomes, such as from work or rents.

The report notes that in order to tackle joblessness, a ‘whole household’ perspective is needed – including a consideration of the way in which one family member’s eligibility for means-tested social transfers is affected by another family member moving into work, creating a poverty trap in which the family ends up better off remaining dependent on social welfare payments.

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said the report showed the social welfare system was crucial in alleviating poverty.

The research found a strong link between the payment of social transfers and the alleviation of poverty, with payments reducing the gap between the poverty threshold and household market income by 88 per cent.

Social welfare payments are the only thing keeping more than half (50.7 per cent) of the population out of poverty, according to figures released earlier this year by the Central Statistics Office.

Ireland has moved from the middle towards the top of the range of EU15 countries in poverty reduction effectiveness between 2005 and 2010.

“The figures demonstrate that the system is extraordinarily effective in terms of income redistribution and poverty alleviation,” said Joan Burton.

“The challenge now is to ensure those who are vulnerable – children and the long-term unemployed, in particular – are not left behind as the economy recovery takes hold”.

“Tackling the issue of jobless households – where no adult member works and the number of which actually increased during the boom years – will be key in this regard, and is a core aim of the Pathways to Work strategy”.

The report entitled Social Transfers and Poverty Alleviation in Ireland is published today by the ESRI and the Department of Social Protection.

Read: 9 things we learned about poverty in Ireland this week >

Read: Food Bank centre reacts to a new reality – a new poverty >

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