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indicator value unit
Population 4.6 mil.
Visitors per year 6.0 mil.
Renewable energy 6.1 %

How’s Life?

Ireland performs well in many measures of well-being relative to most other countries in the Better Life Index. Ireland ranks at the top in social connections and above the average in housing, personal security, health status, subjective well-being, work-life balance, civic engagement and environmental quality but below average in jobs and earnings and income and wealth.

Money, while it cannot buy happiness, is an important means to achieving higher living standards. In Ireland, the average household net-adjusted disposable income per capita is USD 23 917 a year, less than the OECD average of USD 25 908 a year. But there is a considerable gap between the richest and poorest – the top 20% of the population earn almost five times as much as the bottom 20%.

In terms of employment, some 60% of people aged 15 to 64 in Ireland have a paid job, below the OECD employment average of 65%. Some 65% of men are in paid work, compared with 56% of women.  In Ireland, about 4% of employees work very long hours, much lower than the OECD average of 13%, with 7% of men working very long hours compared with just 2% for women.

Good education and skills are important requisites for finding a job. In Ireland, 75% of adults aged 25-64 have completed upper secondary education, in line with the OECD average. This is truer of women than men, as 72% of men have successfully completed high-school compared with 77% of women.. In terms of the quality of its education system, the average student scored 516 in reading literacy, maths and science in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), above the OECD average of 497. On average in Ireland, girls outperformed boys by 3 points, less than the average OECD gap of 8 points.

In terms of health, life expectancy at birth in Ireland is 81 years, one year higher than the OECD average of 80 years. Life expectancy for women is 83 years, compared with 79 for men. The level of atmospheric PM10 – tiny air pollutant particles small enough to enter and cause damage to the lungs – is 12.8 micrograms per cubic meter in large urban areas, considerably lower than the OECD average of 20.1 micrograms per cubic meter. Ireland also performs well in terms of water quality, as 80% of people say they are satisfied with the quality of their water, slightly lower than the OECD average of 81%.

Concerning the public sphere, there is a strong sense of community and moderate levels of civic participation in Ireland, where 96% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need, higher than the OECD average of 88%, and the highest figure in the OECD. Voter turnout, a measure of citizens’ participation in the political process, was 70% during recent elections, above the OECD average of 68%. Voter turnout for the top 20% of the population is an estimated 69% and for the bottom 20% it is an estimated 67%, much narrower than the OECD average gap of 13 percentage points and suggests there is broad social inclusion in Ireland’s democratic institutions.

In general, Irish people are more satisfied with their lives than the OECD average. When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Irish people gave it a 7.0 grade, higher than the OECD average of 6.6.

For more information on estimates and years of reference, see FAQ section and BLI database.


OECD in Action

OECD Economic Surveys: Ireland 2015

This 2015 OECD Economic Survey of Ireland examines recent economic developments, policies and prospects. The special chapter covers inclusive growth.

Read this report

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Ireland in Detail