ALMOST half the population is benefitting from weekly social welfare payments.
The weekly sums were paid to 1.4 million people. But when dependant adults and children were included, the number of those benefiting was in excess of 2.2 million.
In total, 87.6 million scheme payments were made in 2011, leading to an overall expenditure by the Department of Social Protection of almost €21bn.
Minister Joan Burton said: "Behind each and every one of these statistics is a real person or family. Delivering the department's services is not just about numbers, but about affecting the daily lives and well-being of all our citizens, particularly in these challenging times."
She was speaking after the publication of her department's annual report for 2011.
"These figures demonstrate the scale of my department's work, administering more than 70 separate schemes and services that impact on the lives of almost every person in the State," she added.
The department has begun a "transformation process", which last year included the integration of the former community welfare service into social protection, the Minister said.
Her officials answered 6.8 million telephone calls in 2011 and allocated 153,000 social security, or PPS, numbers.
Among the key statistics was that expenditure on State pensions increased by 3.3pc to just over €6bn, incorporating 522,000 people.
Expenditure on working age employment supports increased by 186.5pc to almost €860m.
When additional expenditure on FAS employment supports -- the budgets of which were transferred to social protection -- is discounted, the increase was 45pc.
Expenditure on jobseeker payments fell by 4.7pc to €3.9bn owing to budget changes last year and a 22.2pc drop in the number of recipients. Overall, 379,973 people were paid the weekly instalment.
Some 597,000 families received child benefit, which was paid in respect of over 1,136,000 children. Budgetary changes meant spending on the allowance decreased by 6.2pc to about €2.1bn.
Meanwhile, the carer's allowance bill increased by 1.1pc, while expenditure on the associated benefit decreased by 6.9pc. The number of people receiving a carer's payment increased by 2.1pc to 53,300.
Some 24,666 people were paid a back-to-education allowance, up 16.6pc.