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Dublin: 6°C Wednesday 25 November 2020

How good is life in Ireland?

Pretty good, actually, says the latest OECD Better Life Index. People in Ireland have a long life expectancy – but the rising rate of obesity could impact on that.

Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

IRELAND CONTINUES TO rank highly in the OECD Better Life Index, thanks to our long life expectancy, low pollution, positive experiences and decent work-life balance.

The index takes a look at different factors including housing, income, jobs, community, education, environment, civic engagement, health, life satisfaction, safety and work-life balance.

Money & Employment

According to its findings, the average person earns €19,258 a year – above the OECD average of €17,847 – but the top 20 per cent of the population earn more than four times as much as the bottom 20 per cent.

When it comes to employment, 60 per cent of people aged 15 – 64 have a job, with 64 per cent of men in paid work compared to 56 per cent of women.


More women have graduated from secondary school compared to men – 75 per cent compared with 68 per cent – while 72 per cent of adults aged between 35 – 64 have earned the equivalent of a high school (secondary school) degree, says the OECD.

In the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment, girls outperformed boys by an average of 12 points – slightly more than the OECD gap of nine points.

Life expectancy & health

The life expectancy at birth in Ireland is 81, higher than the OECD average which is 80. Women have a higher life expectancy (83 years) than men (79 years).

How healthy are the Irish? The proportion of smokers among adults has fallen (from 45.6 per cent in the 1970s to 29 per cent in 2007) but the obesity rate is 23 per cent. That is higher than the OECD average of 17 per cent.

However, 83 per cent of people in Ireland reported that they were in good health.


Does Ireland experience high atomospheric pollution? Not according to the OECD, which found that the level of dangerous pollution (atmospheric PM10, tiny particles which can cause damage to the lungs) is much lower than the OECD average, at 13 micrograms per cubic meter, compared to 22 micrograms.

Positive life

Seventy seven per cent of Irish people say they have more positive experiences in an average day than negative ones. That means that people feel more pride, accomplishment and enjoyment than sadness or boredom.

Irish people rated their general satisfaction as 6.9 out of 10, and there was little difference between how satisfied women and men were with their life. But while the bottom 20 per cent of people have a life satisfaction level of 6.8 per cent, the top 20 per cent scored theirs at 7.3 per cent.


When it comes to voter turnout, less people in Ireland vote compared to other countries – voter turnout was 67 per cent during the recent elections, below the OECD average of 73 per cent.

Just over half – 59 per cent – of Irish people say they trust their political institutions, which is higher than the OECD average of 56 per cent.

Work-Life Balance

Men in Ireland spend 129 minutes per day cooking, cleaning or caring, while Irish women spend 296 minutes on average per day on domestic work.

How many hours do people in Ireland work a year? That would be 1664 on average – less than the OECD average of 1749 hours.  While 6 per cent of men work very long hours, 1 per cent of women do

Safety & Social interaction

Do people in Ireland feel safe? The amount of people who reported falling victim to assault (2.6 per cent) is lower than the OECD average of 4 per cent, while Ireland’s homicide rate is also lower, at 1.2 compared to 2.1.

Seventy per cent of people feel safe walking alone at night, which is higher than the OECD average of 67 per cent. The assault rate for the bottom 20 per cent of the population is 3.8 per cent higher than that for the top 20 per cent.

Nearly 59 per cent of people reported having helped a stranger in the last month, while 98 per cent of people believe they know someone they could rely on in a time of need. That is one of the highest rates in the OECD.

However, nearly 3 per cent of people in Ireland reported ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ spending time with friends, colleagues or others in social settings.

Read: OECD sees signs of economic turnaround>

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