The Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice (VPSJ) has recently released the 2021 Annual Update of the Minimum Essential Standard of Living (MESL). The MESL data has long been established in Ireland as an effective benchmark to assess the adequacy of social welfare payments, the national minimum wage, and is used to calculate the Living Wage in Ireland.
The project consults members of the public to understand what is regarded as the minimum needed to meet physical, psychological and social needs in Ireland, in terms of goods and services. This minimum is supposed to be valid for all citizens, not just those experiencing poverty. Once a social consensus is reached, detailed budgets are produced for different types of households, based on the computed costs of over 2000 items. The MESL baskets are revised periodically, to make sure that those minimum standards are up to date with the changing landscape of Irish society.
The findings show that there have been modest changes within the cost of most MESL basket categories, with fluctuations seeing a minor increase in one area largely offset by decreases in another. The report outlines the slight upward pressure in prices for households overall.
The cost of a MESL basket for an urban single adult in full-time minimum wage employment increased by 2.6% from 2020 to 2021. The primary factor in this increase is due to rising rents. The increase in housing costs has resulted in the inadequacy of a full-time minimum wage salary deepening, with an income shortfall of €140 per week. The national minimum wage will provide for only 71.8% of this household’s MESL expenditure need, compared to 73.3% in 2020.
A detailed examination of the MESL costs for children in four age groups is also provided. The analysis demonstrates that the cost of an MESL is highest for older children, aged 12 and over. The direct MESL needs of older children cost approximately €133 per week. But the inclusion of full-time childcare for children makes infancy the most expensive stage, with an average weekly MESL expenditure need of €298.
The net annual cost of urban full-time private childcare for an infant is over €11,400, after the reduction from the universal element of the NCS. The ECCE scheme reduces the cost of childcare for a pre-school age child to approximately €9,100. Full-time childcare accounts for approximately three-quarters of total MESL costs for these age groups.
Early Childhood Ireland monitors research like this to gather an evidence base for our advocacy work. We will continue to advocate for more government investment to ensure that the terms and conditions of employment for early years staff is improved and that all children can access quality early years education and care. If members have any questions, please contact our policy team.