Facts & Figures

The families we work with and represent come in all shapes, sizes and forms – no two one-parent families are the same. Here are what the key facts and figures about one-parent families in Ireland show.

About One-Parent Families in Ireland
  • 1 in 5 people in Ireland live in a one-parent family.
  • 1 in 4 families with children in Ireland is a one-parent family.
  • 86.4% of one parent families are headed by a mother, and 13.6% by a father.
  • The number of one-parent families headed by a parent aged 15-34 has decreased, while the number of one-parent families headed by a parent aged 35+ has increased.
  • There were 218,817 (25.4%) family units with children (of any age) headed by a lone parent. This is an increase of over 3,500 families since 2011. Almost 90,000 were single; a further 50,496 were widowed while the remaining 68,378 were separated or divorced.
  • This represented approximately one in four of families with children and one in five of all families (25.4% of all family units with children in Ireland and 18% of all family units).
  • 356,203 children lived in one parent families, representing more than one in five or 21.2% of all children in family units.
  • The average one parent family has 1.63 children compared to an average of 1.95 for the population overall.
  • The total number of divorced people in Ireland has increased from 87,770 in 2011 to 103,895 in 2016.This is an increase of over 44,000 people in the last ten years.
  • In contrast, the number of people identified as separated has levelled off and stood at 118,178, up marginally from 116,194 five years earlier. As divorce in Ireland generally requires a period of separation in the first instance (up to five years) the figures reflects both a progression for people from separation to divorce, combined with more people becoming separated.

Source: Census 2016

Housing and Homelessness:

As of most recent data published by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government:

  • In March 2021 there were 913 families experiencing homelessness in the State, 70 per cent of which are in Dublin. This is a 5.9 per cent decrease from December 2020.
  • One-parent families are disproportionately affected by homelessness. Despite making up only 20 per cent of families in Ireland, one-parent families make up 54 per cent of homeless families.
  • These 913 families include 1,344 adults and 2,166 children.
  • These numbers include only those currently accommodated in emergency accommodation funded by housing authorities and do not include homeless families in other situations. As such, the real number of families experiencing homelessness is likely to be even higher than the report suggests.

Source: Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage Homeless Report – March 2021

One-Parent Families and DEASP Payments

Below is the most up to date information on the One-Parent Family Payment (OFP) and Jobseeker’s Transition Payment (JST) since the recent OFP reforms, as well as other DEASP payments:

  • The number of OFP recipients has decreased from 92,326 in 2010, before the reforms were announced, to 39,360 in 2020.
  • The number of recipients of the Jobseekers’ Transition (JST) Payment has increased from 14,500 in 2017 to 15,533 in 2020.
  • 54% (26,240) of all Working Family Payment (WFP) recipients are headed by a lone parent.

Source: Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection – August 2020

Poverty and Deprivation Statistics

The Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC) 2018 and 2019 results showed that lone parents in Ireland have the second highest rate of income poverty, persistent poverty, and severe deprivation among all EU-15 countries.

Lone parents are still struggling to meet the costs of living for themselves and their children. This includes the basics such as housing, food, heating and clothes. This is unacceptable and should not be normalised. Ireland is not a poor country and the government need to carefully consider the allocation of resources to ensure the most vulnerable are protected. There has been a minimal decrease in consistent poverty rates and more needs to be done to honour government commitments on child poverty.

How is ‘Deprivation’ defined?

Households that are systematically excluded and marginalised from consuming goods and services which are considered the norm for other people in society due to an inability to afford them, are considered to be ‘deprived’. This identification is currently achieved using a set of eleven basic deprivation indicators.Individuals who find themselves unable to meet two or more of the eleven listed indicators are considered to be experiencing “enforced deprivation”.

The deprivation indicators:

  1. Two pairs of strong shoes.
  2. A warm waterproof overcoat.
  3. Buy new (not second-hand) clothes.
  4. Eat meal with meat, chicken, fish (or vegetarian equivalent) every second day.
  5. Have a roast joint or its equivalent once a week.
  6. Had to go without heating during the last year through lack of money.
  7. Keep the home adequately warm.
  8. Buy presents for family or friends at least once a year.
  9. Replace any worn out furniture.
  10. Have family or friends for a drink or meal once a month.
  11. Have a morning, afternoon or evening out in the last fortnight for entertainment.

Deprivation rates for lone parents

  • Those living in households with one adult and one or more children aged under 18 had the highest deprivation rate in 2019, at 45.4%. This is up from 42.7% in 2018.
  • This rate is 17.1% for households with two adults with 1-3 children aged under 18, meaning that lone parent families are more than 2.5 times more likely to be living in enforced deprivation as two-parent families.
  • In 2019, over one in three (34.4%) individuals living in rented accommodation were living in enforced deprivation, compared to 27.4% in 2018.
  • In 2019, 5.3% of persons with third level degree or higher were living in enforced deprivation, compared to 23.3% of those whose highest level of education is primary or below. This affects lone parents significantly, who are statistically less likely to hold advanced degrees, with 1 in 5 lone parents unable to access formal education due to the cost.
  • Children under the age of 18 were most likely to be living in enforced deprivation. In 2019, 23.3% of persons aged under 18 were living in enforced deprivation, compared to 17.1% of persons aged 18-64 and 11.2% of persons aged 65 and over.
  • People in lone parent households continue to have the lowest disposable income out of all households with children in the State, consistent with 2016 data.
At risk of poverty rates for lone parents
  • “At risk of poverty”refers to households with incomes below 60% of the national median income, which is equal to €277 per week/ €14,387 per year.
  • Nationwide, the rate of households considered ‘at risk of poverty’ was 12.8% in 2019. This is down from 14% in 2018, and 15.7% in 2017, which indicates a positive change overall.
  • The ‘at risk of poverty’ rate for households with one adult and one or more children aged under 18 was 29.7% in 2019. This is a decrease from 33.5% in 2018 and40.2% from 2016, again indicating positive change overall.
  • This figure of 29.7% for one-parent households is compared to a rate of 11.9% for two-parent households. This means that lone parents are almost three times as likely to be at risk of poverty compared to households with two parents.
  • The report shows that minor positive change is happening, but not quickly enough. Time plays a role in poverty. We know that the longer any lone-parent family is exposed to an ‘at risk of poverty’ category, the more likely they are to start experiencing enforced deprivation. The two combined then force lone parent families into ‘consistent poverty’.  Consistent poverty is living in a poverty trap, where the daily and weekly living is nearly always living ‘on the back foot’, never able to plan head, participate in social life easily, and are usually always in some type of debt.
  • Further, data shows that across Europe, households with dependent children that are headed by lone parents are more than twice as likely to experience “in-work poverty”, meaning that they are falling below the income threshold despite being in employment. In 2012, 8.9% of working lone parents in Ireland were living in poverty; by 2017 this had increased to 20.8%. The rate of in-work poverty among lone parents was five times higher than other households with children (20.8% compared to 4.2%).
Consistent poverty rates for lone parents
  • ‘Consistent poverty’ refers to a combination of both terms above, and thus refers to households with incomes below 60% of the national median income of €264 per week and also experiencing deprivation based on the 11 deprivation indicators.
  • Households with one adult with children aged under 18 continue to have the highest consistent poverty rate among household types, at 17.1%. This rate is 6.1% for households with two adults with 1-3 children aged under 18. Lone parents are almost three times as likely to be living in consistent poverty as two-parent households.

Source: SILC 2019,SILC Enforced Deprivation 2019,European Social Policy Network 2019.

Lone Parents and The Distribution of Wealth in Ireland

A TASC report published in December 2015 details the facts that one-parent families:

  • Are less likely to own their own home and face significant barriers to owning property.
  • Have business assets at 1/5 of the average rate of people in Ireland.
  • Have savings of €300 on average, less than 10% of others.
  • Have double the rates of debt to assets and are credit constrained at three times the rate of average households.
  • Have an average net worth of seven times smaller than the average household. The average net wealth for a lone parent is €30,600 which compares to an average figure of €218,700 for all households. Further, half of all lone parents have less than €1,400 in net wealth.

Overall, the report showed clearly that one-parent families are significantly behind all other household types when it comes to wealth.

Source: TASC (2015)

About One-Parent Families in Education

From Census 2016 data, we can see the following re lone parents and educational attainment

215,781 lone parents were asked to state the highest level of education they had completed;

  • 1.9% (4,160) had no formal education at all.
  • 2.5% (5,289) were still in school or university.
  • 13.8%(29,808) did not state their education or defined their status as “other”.
  • 12.2% (26,250) stated that primary school was the highest level of formal education they had completed.
  • 16.4% (35,299) stated that lower secondary school (Junior Certificate or equivalent) was the highest level they had completed.
  • 18.7% (40,326) answered upper secondary school (Leaving Certificate or equivalent).
  • 10.3% (22,265) answered that a technical/vocational qualification was the highest level of education completed.
  • 4.2% (9,133) stated that it was an advanced certificate or a completed apprenticeship.
  • 4.6% (10,028) answered that it was a higher certificate.
  • 5.5% (11,762) stated that it was an Ordinary Bachelor’s Degree and/or professional qualification.
  • 5.2% (11,230) stated that it was an Honours Bachelor’s Degree and/or professional qualification.
  • 4.4% (9,454) answered that their highest level of education completed was a Postgraduate Diploma or Degree.
  • 0.36% (777) answered that it was a Doctorate (PhD).

Source: Census 2016

About One-Parent Families in Work

The Households and Family Units breakdown of the Labour Force Survey released in October 2020 revealed the most recent employment statistics for the period April – June (Q2) 2020.

  • In Q2 2020, the employment rate of lone parents (aged 15-64) was 60.7%, down 3.6% from 2019. This compares with employment rates of 76.9% (down 1.6%) for the adult members of couples with children, and 75.1% (down 0.7%) for the adult members of couples without children.
  • The employment rate of lone parents (aged 15-64) whose youngest child was aged 0 to 5 years was 53.2% (down a significant 6.8% from 2019) in Q2 2020. This figure rises to 65.6% (down 1.9%) where the youngest child was aged 6 to 11 and falls back to 62.1% (down 8.8%) where the youngest child was aged 12 to 17. One possible explanation for this is that the increased cost of older children is making employment a necessity for more parents.
  • 5.6% of lone parents were classified as unemployed in Q2 2020 (down 0.7% from 2019) compared to 2.4% (down 0.8%) of adult members of couples with children classified as long-term unemployed in the same period. A noticeable change from 2019 is the unemployment rate for lone parents with 3 or more children, which saw a large drop from 10.9% to 2.9%. This means that where before, lone parents with three or more children were twice as likely as those with one or two to be unemployed, they are now half as likely to be.
  • On average, 58.7% (down 2.4% in 2019) of lone parents were participating in the labour market in Q2 2020. This compares with participation rates of 76.3% (down 1.9%) for the adult members of couples with children, and 49.4% (down 1.1%) for the adult members of couples without children. This dispels the myth that lone parents are not engaging in, and seeking, work outside the home.
  • However, lone parents are much more likely to be employed on a temporary contract when compared to adults in two parent families (7.6% compared to 4.6%)

Source: CSO Labour Force Survey Households and Family Units Q2 2020

One-Parent Family Stats in Ireland by County

Stats by County as taken from Census 2016 update are available here.