Impact of COVID-19 on our Society and Economy: Two Years On

Thursday, February 24, 2022. 1:18pm
Impact of COVID-19 on our Society and Economy: Two Years On

A snapshot of the impact of COVID-19 on Ireland based on statistics compiled by the Central Statistics Office

  • Based on mortality data reported to the Department of Health, there have been more than 6,200 COVID-19 related deaths in Ireland over the last two years, with more than 1,000 of those deaths occurring in the first four weeks of 2021
  • Employment increased by 229,100 or 10.1% to 2,506,000 persons in the year to Q4 2021, exceeding 2.5 million persons for the first time since the series began in 1998
  • Household saving from January 2020 until the end of September 2021 was €54bn compared to €20.8bn for the equivalent pre pandemic period
  • The Residential Property Price Index (RPPI) increased by 14.4% nationally in the 12 months to December 2021 and the median price of a dwelling purchased in the same period was €280,000
  • Some 88% of people who can work remotely would like to do so when all pandemic restrictions are removed
  • Almost three-quarters of those who work remotely felt they had more time on their hands, because of remote work, to do things they never got the chance to do before the pandemic

Go to release: COVID-19 Information Hub


COVID-19 affected every aspect of life in Ireland and the ripple effect of the virus is still being felt and measured two years on. This snapshot prepared by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) gives an overview of the impact of the virus on the country from the date of the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Ireland on 29 February 2020 to date, based on statistics published by the CSO with a particular focus on those published in the last six months. The knowledge that behind every statistic we produce is a real person or a business is at the heart of all that the CSO does. The CSO will continue to bring clarity, insight, and transparency around what is happening in our economy and society as we move through the next phase of the progression of the virus.

The need for timely, relevant data has been particularly acute in the midst of the pandemic. The CSO responded to the pandemic by continuing to produce key statistical publications, adjusting traditional formats such as our Monthly Unemployment and Live Register publications to meet European and national requirements while still making sense of the figures from an Irish perspective. We created innovative products using new data sources and new data collection techniques in an effort to meet the need for real time data. These new sources included using the website to map deaths in as close to real time as possible and the introduction of online CSO Pulse Surveys to gauge people’s opinions on societal issues. In an era of misinformation, the CSO will continue to provide independently produced trustworthy data so everyone can make informed decisions.

Some Key Findings


The impact of the virus on the economy has been significant. While the seasonally adjusted standard measure of Monthly Unemployment was 5.3% in January 2022, the COVID-19 Adjusted Measure of Unemployment could indicate a rate of 7.8% if all claimants of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) were classified as unemployed. This alternative measure is up from a rate of 7.4% in December 2021 and down from 27.1% in January 2021. The most recent Live Register publication noted there were 410,551 fewer persons in receipt of the PUP at the end of January 2022 than at the end of January 2021.

The unadjusted number of persons aged 15-89 years in employment in the Labour Force Survey Q4 2021 increased by 229,200 or 10.1% to 2,506,000 persons in the year to Q4 2021, exceeding 2.5 million persons for the first time since the series began in Q1 1998. Employment increased in most sectors with the largest rates of increase in the Accommodation & Food Service (+29.8% or +37,100) sector.

A recent Labour Market Insight Bulletin noted that the EWSS payment represented 51.6% of total earnings in the Accommodation & Food Services sector while it was 22.7% in the Arts, Entertainment, Recreation & Other Service Activities sector.

The Quarterly National Accounts Q3 publication showed that in the year-to-date, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2021 increased by 14.5% compared with the first three quarters of 2020 and by 21.7% when compared with the corresponding quarters of 2019. Household expenditure on goods and services fell by €10bn in 2020 compared with 2019, with spending on Restaurants & Hotels most affected, falling by €6.5bn. However, household expenditure on Alcoholic Beverages (purchased for home consumption) rose by close to €0.5bn in 2020. Household savings, a key economic indicator of the impact of restrictions on household wealth, amounted to €54bn from January 2020 to the end of September 2021 compared to €20.8bn of savings during the comparable pre-pandemic period, January 2018 to September 2019.

Preliminary figures for 2021 in our Goods Exports and Imports publication showed that goods exports were valued at more than €165bn in 2021, the highest total on record and up +2% over 2020 figures. Imports in 2021 also increased, up 18% and exceeding €100bn for the first time. 

Some €58.2bn was spent on Social Protection Expenditure 2020, a 20% increase on the 2019 spend of €48.4bn. The largest areas of expenditure were in sickness/healthcare (€21.5bn) and old age (€15.1bn), both of which accounted for 65% of the total spend. Comparing 2020 with 2019, expenditure on unemployment almost trebled, from €2.7bn to €7.8bn due to the impact of the pandemic on social protection expenditure.

Business and Prices

Looking at the area of prices, we can see the Residential Property Price Index (RPPI) increased by 14.4% nationally in the 12 months to December 2021, with prices in Dublin rising by 13.1% and prices outside Dublin up by 15.4%. The median price of a dwelling purchased in the 12 months to December 2021 was €280,000. In the 12 months to December 2021, the lowest median price for a house was €130,000 in Longford, while the highest median price was €595,000 in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown.

Our Agricultural Land Prices 2020 publication showed a noticeable decline in the volume of agricultural land sold in Ireland in 2020 and the median price was €6,992 per acre in 2020.

Looking at the Retail Sales Index on an annual basis, retail volumes were 2.2% lower in December 2021 than in December 2020. The sectors with the largest annual volume decreases in December 2021 were Motor Trades (-18.0%), Electrical Goods (-8.5%) and Other Retail Sales (-8.4%). Sectors showing the largest increases in volume compared to December 2020 were Bars (+36.6%) and Pharmaceuticals, Medical & Cosmetic Articles (+9.8%). The proportion of retail sales transacted online (from Irish registered companies) was 6.5% in December 2021 compared to 5.8% in December 2020 and 4.1% in December 2019.

Prices on average, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, were 5.5% higher in December compared with December 2020 which was the largest annual change in prices since April 2001 (+5.6%). The most notable changes in the year were increases in Transport (+18.0), and Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas & Other Fuels (+11.8). The most significant change in the Agriculture Price Indices was the price of fertilisers which were up 86.9% in the month of December 2021 when compared with the monthly price in December 2020.

The prices in some construction materials showed large increases last year as outlined in the Wholesale Price Index published in December 2021. Timber prices climbed with the 2021 average price for Rough Timber (including plain sawn) up 43.1%, while Other Timber was up by 20.0% on 2020. Prices for steel products also rose, with the overall category Structural Steel & Reinforcing Metal up by 17.0%, while Other Structural Steel increased by 44.7% on the 2020 average. There were very large increases in wholesale electricity prices during 2021, with prices up 260.4% compared to the 2020 average. Other wholesale energy fuels also rose in price, and the index for all energy products was up by 160.6% on 2020.

Transport and Tourism

The CSO’s Transport Bulletin detailed the impact of easing COVID-19 restrictions last month as traffic volumes increased during January 2022. Data for the end of January showed that car traffic volumes in Dublin increased by 19.6% compared with week one of this year. Bus and rail journeys followed a similar trend and increased throughout January from 2,055,852 to 3,111,354 but remain below pre COVID-19 levels.

The number of New Cars Licensed for the first time in 2021 was 101,853 compared with 84,309 in 2020, an increase of 21%. The number of electric vehicles licensed in Ireland continued to grow, up 117% in 2021 from 3,940 in 2020 to 8,554. The number of used (imported) diesel private cars licensed fell by 28% from 50,886 in 2020 to 36,495 in 2021.

Our Air and Sea Travel Statistics showed that five million overseas passengers travelled to and from Ireland in 2021. This compares favourably with 2020, when 4.5 million overseas passengers arrived and departed, but is only one quarter of the overseas travel of 2019, when 20 million passengers arrived and 20 million departed.

The number of domestic trips taken in Ireland has also been affected. The Household Travel Q3 2021 release showed that Irish residents took 2.8 million domestic trips in July, August, and September (Q3) 2021, down 33% when compared with Q3 2020, and a fall of 28% when compared with Q3 2019. Irish residents took 2.3 million fewer international trips (-80%), with foreign holidays down by 1.7 million in Q3 2021 when compared with the same period in 2019, and 300,000 fewer trips to visit friends and family.


The impact of the pandemic on our society will be felt for years to come. Our COVID-19 Deaths and Cases Bulletin last published in December 2021 noted that 90% of deaths occurred among those aged 65 or older. This age group also accounted for 50% of all those hospitalised from March 2020 to the week ending 10 December 2021. Males accounted for 52% of those hospitalised and 63% of admissions to ICU since the start of the pandemic.

Our Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC) publication showed that in 2020, those most at risk of poverty were individuals who were unable to work due to long-standing health problems (33.7%) and the unemployed (32.0%). It also found that almost one in 10 (9.3%) went without heating due to financial circumstances in the year prior to their interview date.

Restrictions introduced by the Government to control the spread of the pandemic also impacted crime rates and the types of crimes committed. The Recorded Crime Q3 2021 publication found that more than 13,500 frauds were recorded in the 12-month period compared to just under 8,000 in the previous year, up 72%, largely driven by unauthorised transactions and attempts to obtain personal or banking information online or by phone. The number of crimes recorded in most other categories fell compared to the previous year, such as burglary (down by 36%), theft (down by 20%) and robbery (down by 18%). There were 15 fewer incidents of murder or manslaughter in the 12 months to September 2021 than in the previous year, but there was an 10% rise in the number of crimes classified as sexual offences.

In our Internet Coverage and Usage in Ireland 2021 it was noted we are online more than ever, working from home and relying more on technology and digital services for our education, shopping and social lives. It showed that nearly nine in 10 (89%) internet users go online every day or almost every day.

With more of us working at home, the CSO Pulse Survey on Remote Working found that 88% of people who can work remotely would like to do so when all restrictions are removed. Around 30% of those in employment whose job could not be done remotely with their current employer would be definitely/probably attracted to a new job that could. When asked about purchasing products online (other than groceries) six in 10 (60%) respondents said they mainly look for retailers that are either based locally to them, or elsewhere in Ireland regardless of price. It also found that almost three-quarters of those who work remotely felt they had more time on their hands, because of remote work.

Our Environmental Behaviours – Visits to Nature Areas Q3 2021, publication showed that three-quarters of urban households visited urban green spaces most weeks for recreational purposes and that going for a walk was the most popular activity.

For further information contact:

Press Office (+353) 21 453 5028 or email [email protected]

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