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Government spent €30.6 billion on social welfare payments in 2020, up 46% from 2019

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys described the increase as “extraordinary”.

Social Protection minister Heather Humphreys
Social Protection minister Heather Humphreys
Image: Sam Boal

THE GOVERNMENT SPENT €30.6 billion on social welfare payments in 2020, an increase of 46% from 2019, according to a new report by the Department of Social Protection.

Overall, social protection spending represented 9% of Irish gross domestic product last year, up from 6% in the previous year.

Spending by the department accounted for 29.3% of total Government expenditure in 2020, up from 24.1%.

In a foreword to the statistical report, Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys described the rise in spending as “extraordinary”.

The increase is mostly accounted for by the €9 billion spent on Covid-related supports including the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) as well as the Temporary Wage Subsidy and Employment Wage Subsidy schemes over the course of the year.

Over 1.2 million people availed of one of the supports for at least one week.

Over half (57%) of recipients were men, according to the report, 48% of whom were under 20 years of while 62% were aged 60 years or over.

The PUP alone cost an estimated €5.1 billion.

At €1.6 billion, Dublin had the highest overall PUP expenditure, representing 32% of the overall bill. Cork was next with €502 million followed by Galway with €277 million.

The accommodation and food services sector had the highest overall PUP expenditure at €1.2 billion, followed by the wholesale and retail trade sector at €756 million and the construction sector at €505 million.

Overall, 788,524 people received at least one PUP payment in 2020, 44% of whom were female and 56% were male.

State pensions were the largest overall spending category at €8.5 billion in 2020, up 3.5% year-on-year.

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Meanwhile, spending on illness, disability and carer payments rose 5.9% in the year to €4.7 billion. 

Of that €4.7 billion, Carer’s Allowance and Disability Allowance payments accounted for €2.7 billion, up 7.4% and 6.2% respectively from 2019.

Commenting on the publication, Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys said, “This report reflects the exceptional role that my Department played in providing an income support to so many people during an extremely difficult year.

“Throughout 2020, some €9 billion in Covid-19 related expenditure issued to some 1.2 million people – demonstrating the scale of the undertaking by Government.

“While the hard work involved in processing all of these emergency payments ensured that payments were made promptly, the everyday work of my Department on all other schemes continued as normal.”

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