- Ireland’s debt is not the debt of the Irish public – it is partly caused by the reckless gambling of German and French banks
- Our current crisis cannot be rectified fairly by prioritising expenditure cuts so as to keep taxes among the lowest in the EU
- Youth unemployment is at an all-time high of 30 per cent.
- Having a job is not, of itself, a guarantee that one lives in a poverty-free household
These are some of the conclusions in Social Justice Ireland's Socio-Economic Review for 2012. The report, titled, ‘Shaping Ireland’s Future’, analyses the economic and social factors facing the Irish public and the impact of policies set by the current Irish Government. The areas explored include taxation, income distribution, unemployment and job creation, health, education and migration.
It is unjust and indefensible that Ireland must bear the current debt burden alone – just to protect Europe’s banks. Our current crisis cannot be rectified fairly by prioritising expenditure cuts so as to keep taxes among the lowest in the EU.
Other conclusions contained in this Review include:
On Income Distribution
More than 700,000 people are living in poverty in Ireland, 200,000 of which are children. The social welfare system is not fit for purpose in the 21st century and it should be replaced with a basic income system. Twenty-first century society needs a radical approach to ensure that everyone can benefit from future economic growth and development. A basic income system should replace social welfare and income tax credits. This would guarantee an income above the poverty line for everyone.
“Ireland can increase its tax take and still remain a low-tax economy.
The Government should move toward increasing the total tax take to 34.9% of GDP and do so by broadening the tax base.
On Unemployment and Job Creation
In the area of unemployment and job creation, the report has found that more than 14% of the labour force is unemployed – with youth unemployment currently at 30%. The report also states that ‘the market economy is unable to provide anywhere near the number of jobs required to reduce unemployment any time soon.
Having a job is not, of itself, a guarantee that one lives in a poverty-free household. 120,000 people living in poverty, in Ireland, have jobs. Government needs to adopt a strategy of making large-scale job creation interventions into the labour market; otherwise, the high levels of unemployment will only be eroded via emigration. The Government should launch a major investment programme focused on creating employment and prioritise initiatives that strengthen social infrastructure such as the school building programme and social housing programme.
It remains a major policy failure that Ireland’s level of long-term unemployment has been allowed to increase so rapidly in recent years. Furthermore, it is of serious concern that Government policy has given limited real attention to the issue.
In relation to education in Ireland, the report has found that ‘a quarter of all male students, over the age of 15, do not have the level of literacy needed to participate effectively in society and in future learning’. The report also recommends that ‘Government should introduce a system in which fees are paid by all participants in third-level education.’
There are strong arguments from an equity perspective that those who benefit from higher education, and who can afford to contribute to the costs of their higher education should do so. Third-level graduates in employment in Ireland earn, on average, 64% more than those with a leaving certificate. By introducing an income-contingent student loan, all students would be treated on the same basis as repayment is based on their own future income.” Fr Healy said.
On the issue of migration, the report has found that emigration of Irish nationals has tripled since 2008. “40,200 Irish people have left the country in the past 12 months. Between April 2009 and April 2010, an estimated 27,000 people also left the country.” Fr Healy said.
The austerity programme is contributing to Ireland’s loss of young people, the implications of which are stark, as the loss will pose significant problems for Ireland’s economic recovery. The plans of the Minister for Justice to offer residency visas in return for investment in Irish bonds or Irish companies or in Irish property are problematic. The inducement of residency in return for cash investment sends out the wrong message about Irish residency.
Ireland has approximately 100,000 households on waiting lists for social housing and no credible plans to address this issue on any scale. Almost a quarter of all households on waiting lists have been more than four years waiting for social housing. With major reductions in capital funding for social housing, it is important that the Government ensure prompt delivery and adequate resources to alternatives, such as the Rental Accommodation Scheme.
The primacy given to the market by so many politicians, analysts, policy makers and commentators has led to many people feeling that their views are ignored or patronised. The market will not solve all society’s problem. Problem solving and shaping a new future for Ireland requires participation of all people in society.