[First published by The Clare People March 19 2019]
WE hear on a daily basis about the so-called recovering economy, but who is benefiting?
Disposable incomes may be rising but so is the cost of housing and rent, car insurance, the price of food and the general cost of living.
Ireland has the strongest economic growth in Europe and while we are delivering plenty of jobs, low wages cannot keep up with the ever-increasing cost of life’s essentials.
Leading economists maintain that employment rates are the best lens in which to view Ireland’s recovery.
It might be on an overall scale but for the ordinary person, it does not tell the full story.
While many people are back in employment and wages have started to increase so has everything else as the cost of basic living in this country continues to rise.
Rents are back above pre-cash levels and young people who immigrated are coming home in their droves.
While our disposable incomes may have gone up, people are finding it extremely difficult make ends meet.
Many of those who are returning to the motherland from overseas are being met with a vicious circle of paying high rent while not being able to save for a home.
In fact, the average rent in Clare is now €801 and shows no sign of slowing down.
The average monthly rent for a one bedroom apartment was €549 at the end of last year, an annual change of just over 10 per cent.
The average salary in the county now stands at just over €28,000 and while the increase should be welcomed it is not on par with the increase of everything else.
We have even returned to the pre-crash mentality that the ever-increasing cost of a family home should be celebrated as if seeing housing as an investment rather than a place to live isn’t a significant part of this country’s housing problem.
Yet, we are bombarded on a regular basis with news that rising house prices is a sign that the economy is booming and we are back to the good times.
This culture is prominent but it comes at a significant cost as many young people are being left behind and have yet to experience this “remarkable turnaround” in the State’s economic fortunes.
Broadcasting a ‘remarkable’ economic turnaround, especially when we have so many young people living abroad who are looking to move home, is a dangerous thing.
High-cost Ireland is set to continue to punish the young, those who are the future of this country and many of those are being encouraged to come home to “full employment”.
Here in Clare we have seen significant improvements when it comes to job creation and improved road networks linking the county to Limerick and Galway and further afield does create a lot of opportunities for people.
But the West coast has always been the poor relation when it comes to economic development and the hard figures of immigration in the last 10 years back this up.
With that in mind, a lot of the younger generation are being forced to move to Dublin for work.
The Irish capital is now more expensive to rent in than major European cities such as Amsterdam, Paris and Stockholm so is Ireland’s booming economy just an illusion?
The ordinary punter certainly thinks so and with the cost of groceries, rent, childcare and even the most modest of social lives ever-increasing it can be frustrating to hear on a daily basis that we have turned things around.
Only four other cities in Europe were found to be more expensive for renting than Dublin – London, Moscow and Zurich.
Surely the outcome of a “recovering” economy would be one that people who work hard aren’t being punished by having to pay through their noses just for somewhere to live.
We might have London or Scandinavian-style prices, but we certainly don’t have the economy to back it up and it is the younger people, many whom are being encouraged to move home to the ‘recovering’ economy, that are, quite literally, paying the biggest price.