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Half of women report life improvement, post-virus
Pic: UnSplash

06 Sep 2021 / ireland Print

Half of women report life improvement, post-virus

A Central Statistics Office (CSO) snapshot of the impact of COVID-19 on Ireland shows that there were more than 5,000 COVID-19 related deaths over the last 18 months. Over 1,000 of those deaths occurred in the first four weeks of 2021.

And more than 1.36 million people availed of one or more of the Government COVID-19 income supports by mid-2021.

Property-price surge

Residential property prices increased by 6.9% nationally in the year to June, compared with an increase of 5.4% in the year to May – there was no change in the 12 months to June 2020, 

Almost half of respondents in February 2021 with a child in fifth or sixth year in secondary school said that enforced school closures had had a ‘major negative’ impact on their child’s learning.

Change for the better

In November 2020, however, a total of 45% of respondents reported that something in their lives had changed for the better since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, with more than half of women (51%) and over 38% of men saying this.

Asked about an aspect of their lives that had changed for the better, almost 30% of respondents reported having enjoyed more quality time with people they loved, while 19% said that their finances had improved.

Similar percentages of workers reported a better work/life balance, and less time commuting or travelling for work (18.8% and 19.4%), respectively.

Wage subsidies

In Q2 2021, 17% of all active employments were directly supported by the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), but this was as high as 76% for the hospitality and food-services sector. 

The CSO estimates that approximately €14 billion of Government spending in 2020 was directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the first three months of 2021, households saved more than €10 billion – more than four times the amount usually saved during the first quarter of the year.

The snapshot gives an overview of the impact of the virus on the country from the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Ireland on 29 February 2020 ,to date.

Key findings

The number of passengers travelling through the main airports in July 2021 was 61% higher than in July 2020, but the number of people travelling to and from Ireland was 82% lower than the same month in pre-pandemic 2019. 

The number of deaths increased by 890 (+10.3%) from 8,674 to 9,564 in Q1 2021 compared with the same period in 2020.

There were 1,846 deaths due to COVID-19, accounting for almost one-fifth (approximately 19%) or all deaths in the first three months of the year, of which 995 were male and 851 were female.

In economic terms, revenues in 2020 were €3.6 billion lower than in 2019, largely due to the virus restrictions.

The main driver of the decline was indirect taxes – reduced VAT receipts and the waiver of commercial rates leading to a reduction of €3.3 billion in revenues.

Employment stats

Pre-pandemic, the highest number of people in employment in Ireland was recorded in Q4 2019, with more than 2.36 million workers and an unemployment rate of 4.5%.

The COVID-19-adjusted rate of unemployment peaked at 31.5% in April 2020, before falling back to just under 16% in September 2020.

The reintroduction of restrictions in the New Year saw it rise again to more than 27% in January 2021. The easing of restrictions over the course of 2021 has seen the unemployment rate fall back to 12.4% in August.

The sectors most impacted in terms of job losses include tourism, hospitality and food service, retail, and construction.

Those displaced from their jobs due to the pandemic were more likely to be younger, lower-skilled, and in part-time positions than the population average.

While employment levels declined by 116,600 people (5%) over the period from Q1 2020 to Q1 2021, almost 7.6 million fewer hours were worked per week in the year to Q1 2021.

This reduction of almost 10% in hours worked was most pronounced in the hospitality, construction and other-service-activities sectors, which included culture and recreation.

Household subsidies

Compared with the first quarter of 2020, Government subsidies to households were up by €1.1 billion (driven by the Wage Subsidy Scheme). Social-protection payments grew by €2.7 billion (largely due to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment) in the first quarter of 2021.

The percentage of enterprises with personnel on COVID-19 income support peaked in April 2020 at more than 57%, while the lowest was in September 2020 at more than 30%.

In all, 56% of SMEs reported closing at some point during the pandemic in 2020, while 67% reported less turnover than would have been expected in normal circumstances.

Hardest hit

The hardest-hit sector was 'accommodation and food-service activities', where 90% of firms had to close at some point, while 80% reported less turnover than normal.

Retail sales fell by 10% in March 2020, followed by a decrease of more than 37% in April 2020.

The two later lockdowns, pre- and post-Christmas 2020, had a less severe impact on the overall volume of retail sales, with sales falling by 12% in November 2020; and by 20% in January 2021.

By July 2021, overall retail sales were 14% higher compared with July 2019.

Online retail sales

The proportion of retail sales conducted online in Irish registered companies grew from an average of 3.3% in 2019 to reach its highest level of 15.3% in April 2020. As retail outlets reopened, online transactions fell and, in July 2021, accounted for 4.6% of all sales.

In all, 29,000 fewer cars were purchased in 2020 compared with 2019, while the combined number of new electric and hybrid cars licensed in 2020 was 15.7% greater than those licensed in 2019 – or 2,251 more cars.

This trend has continued, with electric and hybrid cars accounting for more than 32% of all new cars purchased in the first seven months of this year.

Car-traffic volumes

Car-traffic volumes are now at 87% of July 2019 levels in the Dublin area, and 90% of July 2019 levels in regional locations.

Heavy goods vehicles’ (HGVs) traffic volumes from April 2021 to mid-July 2021 in both regional and Dublin locations have risen above 2019 and 2020 levels.

There has been a rebound in new dwelling completions to pre-COVID-19 levels, with apartments accounting for more than a quarter of completions in Q2 2021.  

There were 5,021 new dwelling completions in Q2 2021, which is 55.5% greater than the 3,229 completions in the second quarter of 2020; and 4.6% greater than the 4,802 completions in Q2 2019.

Impact on society

The CSO undertook five surveys to evaluate the social impact of COVID-19 on society, and to identify the types of individuals and households most affected by the crisis. 

Almost 17% of women said they felt lonely ‘all or most of the time’ in the four weeks prior to interview in February 2021, compared with 9.2% of male respondents.

In April 2020, when COVID-19-related restrictions were first implemented, three-in-ten (29.6%) respondents rated their overall life satisfaction as low.

After restrictions were eased in August 2020, this rate dropped to just over two-in-ten (21.6%).

In November 2020, during the second wave of COVID-19 and during Level-five restrictions, the rate increased to 35.6%.

The comparable rate in 2018, a time when the Irish economy was growing strongly, was 8.7% 

In 2013, when Irish society was recovering from the 2008 global financial crisis, the rate was 15.3%.


Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland