Poverty among working lone parents has more than doubled over a five-year period up to 2017, according to a new report from the Society of St Vincent de Paul.
The 'Working, Parenting and Struggling' report found that one in 11 working lone parents was living below the poverty line in 2012, but that number had jumped to one in five by 2017.
The report says the high cost of housing and childcare, combined with low levels of income, were making it very difficult for many families with children to make ends meet.
It says the data also shows that the living standards of lone parents in Ireland are among the worst in Europe as they have the second highest rates of income poverty, persistent poverty and severe deprivation among 15 EU peer countries.
SVP Social Policy Development Officer and author of the report, Dr Tricia Keilthy, said: "It is clear that Ireland is failing to protect lone parents and their children from the adverse affects of poverty."
Dr Keilthy said housing and childcare costs, combined with low income, significantly reduce the standard of living of working lone parents, who face additional challenges as both the primary earner and primary care-giver for their families.
She said they also create additional barriers to employment for those who want to take up a job or increase their working hours.
The report analyses data from the European Survey of Income and Living Conditions, the Labour Force Survey and Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to build a comprehensive picture of the income, work and living conditions of one parent families in Ireland.
Some of the main findings include:
- Lone parents in Ireland are almost five times more likely to experience in-work poverty than other households with children (20.8% compared to 4.2%).
- 84% of lone parents in Ireland were unable to meet unexpected expenses - compared to an EU-15 average of 58%
- In 2017, 58% of lone parents were working compared to 46% in 2012. This is the lowest rate among EU-15 countries. However, the rate increases to 66% for those with children over 12, indicating that when childcare needs are lower, the labour market attachment of lone parent is higher.
- Almost 60% of lone parents reported that they could not access childcare services due to cost - the second highest rate in EU-15 countries just after Spain
- Childcare costs significantly reduce the returns from work, particularly for those employed in low paid work.
- Housing costs are also an important factor in a family's ability to make ends meet. In 2017, 45% of lone parents reported a heavy financial burden due to housing costs and almost 18% were in arrears on the mortgage or rent repayments. The rate of arrears for other households with children was 8% in 2017.
- Employment rates are three times higher among lone parents with third-level education but one in five lone parents reported that they could not access formal education for financial reasons.
Dr Keilthy did say that "Budget 2019 included a number of welcome improvements in income supports for lone parents and the introduction of the Affordable Childcare Scheme is a very positive development."
However, she said the report shows that Ireland has a long way to go in creating pathways to sustainable, decent and family-friendly employment, which will address the growing issue of in-work poverty among lone parents.