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Measuring Rural Poverty – It’s Complicated!

 

At Risk of Poverty

Within the same CSO release, the data show that the at risk of poverty rate decreased from 16.2% in 2016 to 15.7% in 2017. Examining the at risk of poverty rate spatially, the rate is higher in rural areas[1], compared to urban areas; the at risk of poverty rate in rural areas is 17.2% in 2017, compared to 15.1% in urban areas. Moreover the trend over the last two years shows a divergence, with the urban rate declining – from 15.9% to 15.1%, while the rural rate increased from 16.9% to 17.2%.

The CSO release also provides a breakdown by region. The data indicates that the at risk of poverty rate is higher in the more rural regions (Northern and Western) with 21.8% or over a fifth of the population there at risk of poverty. This is in contrast to the rate within the Southern region (16.8%) and it is lower again in the more urban Eastern and Midland region (12.8%).

Deprivation Rate

The CSO also measure the deprivation rate, which is a broader measure than poverty and is defined as follows: Households that are excluded and marginalised from consuming goods and services which are considered the norm for other people in society, due to an inability to afford them, are considered to be deprived. This measure of the marginalised or deprived is currently achieved on the basis of a set of eleven basic deprivation indicators as follows.

  1. Two pairs of strong shoes
  2. A warm waterproof overcoat
  3. Buy new (not second-hand) clothes
  4. Eat meal with meat, chicken, fish (or vegetarian equivalent) every second day
  5. Have a roast joint or its equivalent once a week
  6. Had to go without heating during the last year through lack of money
  7. Keep the home adequately warm
  8. Buy presents for family or friends at least once a year
  9. Replace any worn out furniture
  10. Have family or friends for a drink or meal once a month
  11. Have a morning, afternoon or evening out in the last fortnight for entertainment

Individuals who experience two or more of the eleven listed items are considered to be experiencing enforced deprivation and this is the basis for calculating the deprivation rate.

The deprivation rate nationally has shown a decrease between 2016 and 2017, from 21% to 18.8%. At a spatial level it appears that there is a higher rate of deprivation in urban areas than in rural, in 2017 the urban deprivation rate was 20.2%, while in rural areas it was 15.9%. Similarly the more rural Northern and Western Region has a lower deprivation rate in 2017 (17.3%), compared to 18.7% for the Southern Region and 19.5% for the Eastern and Midland region.

Consistent Poverty

Finally, the other commonly used measure of poverty, is the consistent poverty rate. An individual is defined as being in ‘consistent poverty’ if they are

  • Identified as being at risk of poverty and
  • Living in a household deprived of two or more of the eleven basic deprivation items listed above

Nationally the rate went from 8.2% in 2016 to 6.7% in 2017. At a spatial level, like the deprivation rate, the consistent poverty rate is slightly higher in urban areas than in rural areas. In rural areas the rate was 5.3%, compared to 7.4% in urban areas.

Measuring Deprivation: Access to Services?

The measurement of poverty in its various ways has become a lot more sophisticated than a simple examination of income. The at risk of poverty rate and the deprivation measurement places poverty in the context of the society and environment in which it occurs and this is welcome.

It is often said that rural poverty, is more hidden or less visible than urban poverty. Overall the CSO recent data show that rural areas have a higher at risk of poverty rate, compared to their urban cousins, but have lower deprivation and consistent poverty rates.

However the definition of deprivation is based on enforced deprivation where there is an inability to afford goods and services. But what of the inability to access goods and services because they are not available in the locality. Is the inability to access broadband a deprivation? Many rural residents think so. It impacts on their ability to access goods and services on-line and often impacts on their ability to generate their incomes, for small businesses and the self-employed.

And, in the absence of broadband, what of access to services such as banks and post offices?  Is it enforced deprivation, when these services were once available within the community and are no longer there?  Is it enforced deprivation when access is not available online and there are limited if any transport services to travel to the next available centre to access the closest banking or post office facilities? Most would consider Yes, that this is enforced deprivation.

Those communities that are not being served by the commercial broadband providers now and are awaiting a decision to start the National Broadband Pan (following its original announcement seven years ago) are and will continue to remain deprived for years to come.

On 4th February this year, Social Justice Ireland, issued a press release entitled Time for Government to commit to eradicating poverty, see here. In it they point to the importance of being able to access high quality public services. On the same day, Social Justice Ireland published their Social Economic Review 2019, which highlights in detail the importance of access to broadband, financial services and other public services in helping to deliver a fairer Ireland. The publication has a specific chapter on the issues and challenges for all those living in for rural and regional Ireland see here.

Deirdre Frost

 

[1] Since 2014 areas are now classified as Urban or Rural based on the following population densities derived from Census of Population 2011: Urban – population density greater than 1,000,  and Rural: Population density <199 – 999 and Rural areas in counties.