A study by the Economic and Social Research Institute has found that there was a dramatic reduction during the 1990s in the number of Irish households where none of the adults had a paid job.

Such households are described by economists as 'work poor'. The economic boom of the 1990s has almost halved the number of 'work poor' in Irish society.

However, there are still almost 130,000 households where no one has a job outside the home. Those most at risk include older people, lone parents, people with disabilities and those without qualifications.

Richard Layte of the ESRI believes more support should be available to allow them to return to work.

The research also found that the level of poverty among the 'work poor' has increased as they fall further behind the rest of society. The ESRI says this is happening at a time when Ireland's labour market remains vibrant.