Warning: This article does not come with the usual bells, whistles and Christmas cheer you would expect at this time of the year.
Last week we asked our readers to take part in our Killarney Town Pulse Survey. We wanted to get a better understanding of local consumer sentiment and to get an snapshot of other issues impacting our standard of living. See a summary of our findings below.
So, jobs are aplenty, the minimum wage is set to increase in 2024 and yet according to our findings, locals are not too optimistic about the year ahead.
Just 1 in 10 people reported that they are better off now than they were a year ago. Only 16% expect the economy to be in a better place this time next year and there seems to be widespread dissatisfaction with how the government are tackling key issues affecting our standard of living.
Hasn’t everything gone so expensive?
If I got a euro for every time I heard this the over the past 12 months I certainly wouldn’t be feeling the pinch myself! Generally speaking, people do not like to talk about their personal finances but people’s behaviour is changing under the current climate. We are so frustrated with the cost of everything we are venting at home, in the office, and even while out for dinner with friends. It is not a dig at local business, I know plenty of small businesses struggling to keep their heads above water too.
Inflation is a concern but the real worry is where prices will land
Consumers and businesses are dealing with higher interest rates that have come as a result of the Central Bank trying to tame inflation. Loan products such as mortgages and car loans are more expensive. The noise coming from these issues alone is enough to drown out any positive aspects of the economy.
Stubbornly high inflation is a concern for policy makers, but for the average Joe, we are more concerned about where prices will eventually fall back to. We can deal with some short term pain but with inflation stabilising and some early signs it may even be falling, a large percentage of our survey respondents expect prices to continue to rise. This is backed up by many economists predicting prices will never return to what they were.
It’s not clear how much wage increases have played into higher prices up to now but there is a general consensus that where business margins are tight, higher wages for workers will lead to sustained higher prices for consumers
Government is failing on issues impacting our standard of living
Research published by the National Youth Council of Ireland last week showed that more than 7 in 10 young people aged 18-24 are considering moving abroad because they think they would enjoy a better quality of life elsewhere. We asked a similar question to locals in our survey and more than 50% of Killarney locals said that either they, or someone they know, is considering moving abroad. This is a sad indictment of our country today.
The pace of housing delivery is dampening young people’s hopes of owning their own home and is even making renting unaffordable. It is not just impacting the youth however, I know of business owners in Killarney where housing shortages are impacting their ability to attract and retain talent, Businesses can’t afford to pay them a wage that allows them to comfortably rent and live in Killarney.
At the start of September we were reading about a major teacher shortage across the country. Graduate múinteoirí are now ditching Ireland for the Middle-East where their accommodation is often subsidised and their take-home-pay benefits from a largely tax-free society.
This Wednesday we witnessed a staff walk out at UHK in protest of a recruitment ban in place by the HSE. Reports claim that there are over 90 clerical positions waiting to be filled at the hospital. It is no wonder with all of these added pressures that our nurses and doctors are heading Down Under for warmer weather and better pay and while you couldn’t begrudge them, the drain of health workers in Ireland is leaving those left behind working in stressful and sometimes dangerous conditions.
It’s the uncertainty
The economy is in a strange place at the moment, we are not sure if it is growing, slowing or shrinking. It kind of feels like we are dangling off the edge of a cliff and one big gust of wind could push us over the edge. The preferred outcome is that we will be pulled back to safer ground but can this government gets to grips with the major issues impacting our standard of living and get the cost of living down to a more tolerable level?