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The Minimum Essential Standard of Living 2018

The Minimum Essential Standard of Living 2018

July 3, 2018

Last week the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice (VPSJ) released the 2018 annual update of the Minimum Essential Standard of Living (MESL) dataset1. 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.

This year’s MESL Update report highlights the importance of services which can reduce the cost of an MESL for households: the role of social housing and assistance with the cost of early years services and in-work income supports like the Working Family Payment. The VPSJ note that universal subsidies and the extension of the ECCE scheme result in a decrease in the net-cost of early years services included in the MESL data, for children below primary school age in 20182.

The report highlights that without the support of the Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) Programme, households with younger children, who face higher early years services costs (according to MESL data) could need to earn significantly higher than the minimum wage to have an adequate standard of living. This is true even when a household is living in the “best-case scenario” of accessing good quality social housing and paying differential rent.

Yet, the VPSJ found that not all households in need of support can benefit from the CCS Programme due to certain eligibility conditions. In a two-parent household, with a baby, where both earn the minimum wage, one partner working full-time and the other part-time, the household income is too low to provide a minimum standard of living but the household cannot avail of the higher CCS Programme rates. According to the VPSJ, this household would be better off earning less, as they would qualify for vital supports, including the higher CCS Programme rates and could then afford an MESL.

Recent increases in social welfare and decreases in the cost of some items have enabled more households to afford a Minimum Essential Standard of Living this year. However, income inadequacy remains a persistent issue, especially for households reliant on one primary social welfare payment, households with older children and those living in rural areas.

Early Childhood Ireland does not take for granted that staff working in the early years sector may live in households that cannot afford to have a Minimum Essential Standard of Living. According to the latest Pobal Early Years Sector Profile, half of staff are working part-time, and many are on 38-week contracts.

Early Childhood Ireland continues to call for substantially more government investment in the early years sector to ensure that all children can access quality early years education and care, and to improve the terms and conditions of employment for early years staff.


Members can use the MESL data to assess the adequacy of their own incomes, the affordability of early years services for parents and the adequacy of early years staff wages. To make it easier to use the data, the VPSJ have created a Minimum Income Standards Calculator.


1. A Minimum Essential Standard of Living is comprised of the weekly cost of a basket of essential goods, agreed upon by focus groups which represent the most common household types in Ireland.
2. The costs of early years services included in the MESL for infants and pre-school age children are based on the use of private providers. Early years services costs for children of primary school age are based on care being provided by a friend or relative, after school and during school holidays, with an agreed contribution made by the household for this. This type of informal care is not eligible for subvention under the CCS Programme.


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