What is the Minimum Essential Standard of Living research?

The MESL research identifies the cost of what is required to enable a life with dignity, at a minimum but acceptable level – what we call the Minimum Essential Standard of Living.

The research works with members of the public in deliberative focus groups to establish social consensus on what is needed for a minimum living standard. The research is informed by expert knowledge as needed, e.g. nutrition. It produces detailed household budgets which establish what is needed for an acceptable minimum standard of living, for 90% of households in Ireland.


  • is a standard of living which no one should be expected to live below
  • is decided by members of the public, agreeing on what is needed to live at an acceptable dignified standard and participate in Irish society
  • is the minimum needed to live and partake in Irish society today, meeting the physical, psychological and social needs of individuals and households
  • is a minimum standard for everyone, not just those in poverty
  • counts the actual weekly cost of all the over 2,000 items (goods and services) needed to enable a socially acceptable minimum standard of living
  • is a unique benchmark, grounded in the lived experience of people, which complements other poverty measures. It shines a light on the extent to which individuals and households can afford a minimum standard of living



The MESL research has been ongoing since 2004, developed by the VPSJ, and now continued by the Vincentian MESL Research Centre at SVP. 

This research has pioneered the use of the Consensual Budget Standards methodology in Ireland and its application to establishing minimum expenditure and income needs. The MESL budget standards research has developed to provide an evidence-based benchmark that has become an integral part of the policy discourse around income adequacy, poverty and social inclusion.

The minimum standards data is widely used in the policy debate across government departments, in analysis by NGOs, contributes to the annual Budget process, and at a practical level it is used by organisations working directly with people such as SVP and MABS. Furthermore, the research forms the basis of the ISI’s reasonable living expenses and the Living Wage calculations.

The role of the Research Centre is to continue this crucial research, providing evidence to inform policy and to shine a light on what is needed for everyone in Ireland to live with dignity.


MISc.ie Minimum Income Standard Calculator

The Minimum Income Standard calculator (MISc.ie) provides ready access to tailored data on the minimum expenditure and income needs of the majority of household types across Ireland.

Using MISc.ie you can define specific household compositions and employment scenarios, for households in Urban and Rural areas, and examine their particular minimum expenditure and income needs.

The calculator uses the latest Minimum Essential Standard of Living (MESL) expenditure data, calculating the minimum income households in Ireland require to afford a socially acceptable minimum standard of living.

MISc.ie is currently using the latest 2022 MESL expenditure needs data, and applicable 2022 income rates.

Visit MISc.ie