A new study has found that 33% of renters in the private sector, who are in debt, are now overburdened by debt repayment and nearly 28% face utility arrears.The study, from TASC (Think Tank for Action on Social Change), also reveals that only 40% of renters are able to save income on a regular basis. This number drops to 20% for renters who are at the lower income brackets.

TASC noted that in Dublin, rent accounts for 51.9% of a single person’s minimum living costs. It has also calculated that from 2013 to 2018, rents have risen by 44%, insurance by 19%, household utility bills by 10.2%, rail transport by 16%, education costs by 18% and fees for GP visits by 8.3%. Average incomes have risen by 8.1% in the same time period.

The report classifies households in debt as ‘struggling’ and ‘squeezed’.Households that are struggling are the least financially resilient and at the greatest risk of financial difficulty with debt repayments that are a ‘heavy burden’. Squeezed households are barely getting by in terms of their financial commitments and for the majority, their debt repayment amounts are “somewhat heavy”.

Today’s report points out that debt burden is compounded by the country’s history of financial exclusion, particularly for marginalised communities. It said that a lack of flexible financial services for people in debt or on lower incomes forces many to turn to money lenders or high-interest debt purchase companies. 53% of all Irish households cannot save income regularly, rising to 77% for low-income households.

Overall, Irish households remain the fifth most indebted in the European Union, TASC stated.

Amie Lajoie, Senior TASC researcher and author of the report, said a high proportion of people were not going into debt for lavish expenses but were doing so just to put a roof over their heads, heat their homes or provide food for their families.

“This report highlights that a high proportion of Irish people across all demographics are at high financial risk because of unsustainable and crushing debt burdens. This is storing up real difficulties if the economy goes into a recession or if there is an external economic shock, for example.”

“This report contributes to a renewed discussion of household debt in the Irish context and explores the current problems and trends related to debt and access to credit amongst households, concerning non-mortgage debt. The research highlights the needs of the most vulnerable households in Irish society, including those who are in the lowest income brackets (bottom 40%), renters (in the social and private rental sector) as well as single-parent households.”