Recession V

What then of Ireland, both North and South? In the South, after the boom and bubble of the early naughties, the banks were bust. The government promised that deposit holders would not loose out—after all, such depositors were much closer to home than many of those depositors in the Icelandic banks. And having promised what they could barely manage, the Irish government were obliged to go as supplicants to the ‘Troika’ of the EC, the ECB and the IMF for help. These, not having learned the lessons of history, prescribed austerity (health care programmes are a ‘luxury’, for example). Meanwhile, in the UK, the Labour government which had tried some modest stimulus were replaced by a coalition between the Tories and the Lib-Dems. The former had promised that there would be no ‘top-down’ reorganisation of the NHS; the latter had promised that there would be no increase in student fees for university. Once installed in the coalition, both parties totally ignored these ‘promises’; there was to be a major reorganisation of the NHS (in England and Wales), and as for university fees, well we know what happened. This coalition also advanced the idea that Labour (or benefit scroungers, health tourists, the obese, take your pick of the baddies) were responsible for the economic problems; and the the remedy was self-imposed austerity—what the prime minister, in a delightful Spoonerism, described as ‘maso-sadism’. In N Ireland, however,  it was politics as usual, a state that has generally continued up to now; that is, a concentration on sectarianism, bickering, ‘flegs’, emblems, marches, though with a common agreement that abortion, equal marriage, sodomy—anything to do with sex—were of far greater import than the state of the economy. So, what happened? You could almost argue that this emphasis on historical problems has prevented the implementation of the worst excesses of austerity in the North.

From historical parallels, we could expect that unemployment would rise in a recession, and the austerity response; and that mental health would worsen. Further, we might expect that poverty would increase, as would homelessness caused by mortgage foreclosures. Not all these indices are captured in official statistics, making it difficult to measure some of these things.

There is indirect evidence of the reduction in ’disposable earnings’ in N Ireland. Some people, we might imagine the young, simply could not afford to drive as much:

RTA deaths NI.jpg

N Ireland Source: PSNI

And in the South:

Ireland RTA deaths.jpg

Republic of Ireland Source: Wikipedia

While the DHSS and the PSNI in the North, and An Garda Síochána in the South might feel that this reduction is related to their policies, the reality is more likely to be related to relative poverty.

Suicides are a crude proxy for mental health, particularly depression:

death by suicide NI.jpg

N Ireland Source: NISRA

Ireland suicide.jpg

Republic of Ireland Source: CSO

While you could argue that the recession and austerity are associated with increases in suicides, there is another factor which may be more important—emigration, the Irish response through the centuries to financial, social and economic disaster through the centuries.

The numbers for N Ireland are actual numbers of people, for the South they are in thousands. The diagrams are for net migration—negative numbers mean emigration is greater than immigration.

Net migration NI.jpg

N Ireland Source: NISRA

Net migration Ireland.jpg

Republic of Ireland Source: CSO

There are many factors in suicides, not just austerity, yet the rise with the onset of austerity is striking, as is the rise in net emigration. All of these emigrations, and many of the suicides, represent the human cost of rescission and attendant austerity; families torn apart, relationships destroyed. These are situations for which only the most cold-hearted actuary could translate into financial terms.

Homelessness is more difficult to measure. There are multiple definitions of ‘homelessness’, why people are homeless and look for help. There are no local statistics showing totals (trends) of homeless over time. The NI Housing Executive records the numbers of applicants, and the reason for their being homeless; but this cannot be a complete picture of the problem.

Homeless NI.jpg

Source: Crisis

The NI Housing Executive (here) do note that there has been increasing trend in homelessness since the 1990s, and a ‘significant increase in 2010/2011’, in part due to the current economic situation.

The causes of homelessness are multiple; poverty is only one of them. Curiously, ‘poverty’ is not included in this diagram:

Homelessness_Strategy_for_Northern_Ireland_2012-2017_-_homelessness_strategy_for_northern_ireland_2012-2017_pdf_2.jpg

Source: NIHE

Indirect measures of homelessness are mortgage repossessions; this clearly shows a rise in 2008/09, as could be expected.

HomelessnessMonitor_NorthernIreland_web_pdf.jpg

Source: Crisis

I have been unable to discover equivalent data for the Republic. Following the 2011 Census, a  special report was issued with details of the homeless then—a ‘snapshot’. There do not seem to be any continuing data.

Ireland census 2011_1.jpg

Source: CSO

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