Belfast Telegraph

Ireland 5th most expensive EU state

Ireland is the fifth most expensive country in the European Union (EU), a study has claimed.

Despite the falling cost of living in the last few years, prices were 18% more expensive than the average across the 25 EU states in 2010. The only countries with higher costs are Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg and Sweden.

In 2009, Ireland - which has been hit by a record-breaking banking crisis, a property crash, an International Monetary Fund bailout and massive unemployment - was second only to Denmark, with prices 29% above the EU average.

In a review of statistics on life in Ireland, a report has also found that Ireland is the youngest nation in Europe, with the most under-14s and the least over-65s.

Central Statistics Office (CSO) report Measuring Ireland's Progress 2010 said that the 4.5 million population is increasing at a higher rate than in any other EU country and it still enjoys the highest fertility and lowest divorce rates.

Noting that the economy was stuck in recession in 2010, the review said that in the previous year 5.5% of the population were in consistent poverty - unable to afford two goods or services essential for a basic standard of living. The CSO said the figure had jumped from 4.2% in 2008.

The dramatic collapse in the economy over the last three years has created a crippling jobs crisis and had a devastating impact on government finances.

The CSO noted that the unemployment rate in 2010 was the sixth highest rate in the EU - it has since hit 14.4% - but the report also heralded the productivity of Irish workers, which was just over a third higher than the average.

Amid ongoing concerns over the maths and science skills of school leavers and graduates, the CSO highlighted academic standards.

It noted that 15-year-olds are joint 17th for the highest mathematical literacy but below the average recorded by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. In reading and literacy Ireland is ranked eighth, slightly above the average. Almost half of 25-34-year-olds completed third level education, the third highest rate across the EU.

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