Social Security System in Ireland

Ireland's social security system

The Irish social security system is based on a contributory scheme (social insurance) and non-contributory scheme (social assistance).

Social insurance

This scheme comprises:

  • old-age pension,
  • retirement pension,
  • widow's/widower's pension,
  • orphan's allowance,
  • invalidity pension,
  • unemployment benefit, and
  • bereavement grant.

To qualify for social insurance a person must have a minimum number of weeks of PRSI contributions and a minimum number of weeks of PRSI contributions paid and/or credited in the 'relevant tax year.'

Social assistance

People who do not qualify for social insurance may be entitled to social assistance. This scheme covers:

  • old-age pension,
  • carer's allowance,
  • one-parent family payment,
  • widow's/widower's pension,
  • orphan's pension,
  • unemployment assistance,
  • pre-retirement allowance,
  • farm assist,
  • blind pension,
  • disability allowance,
  • supplementary welfare allowance, and
  • rent allowance.

Social assistance payments are means tested. The applicant's cash income, income from employment and self-employment, value of property (excluding own home), value of investments and capital are examples of the means taken into account.


Social insurance payments are payable outside Ireland. Payments are made in local currency every 4 weeks into the person's bank account. Social assistance payments are NOT payable outside Ireland.


The Department of Social Protection is responsible for the administration of Ireland's state system of social security that is social insurance and social welfare. The Department is divided into 2 main parts:

  • the Aireacht which is responsible for policy formulation, legislations and general administration, and
  • Social Welfare Services which is responsible for the day-to-day running and delivery of services.

Act reference: SS(IntAgree)Act Schedule 8 Ireland

Last reviewed: 9 November 2015