Country Report for Ireland 2023
The Country Report for Ireland outlines some of the major challenges facing Ireland, many of which Social Justice Ireland have consistently advocated the Government address. Shortfalls in housing, poor outcomes in the health service, lack of planning for an ageing population, persistent challenges in meeting the needs of vulnerable groups, poor energy infrastructure, lack of progress on climate action are in addition to the challenges which Government aims to address in the Recovery and Resilience Plan.
Among the key challenges identified in the country report are:
Employment and social challenges: disadvantaged groups continue to face significant labour market challenges and disproportionately high poverty risks
Disadvantaged groups continue to face significant labour market challenges and disproportionately high poverty risks. The disability employment gap in Ireland stood at 41.3 percentage points in 2021, among the highest in the EU. The employment rate of single parents was the second lowest in the EU in 2021 despite progress in the past ten years. Ireland has the highest share of low work intensity households in the EU at 13% and these households often overlap with vulnerable groups such as persons with a disability and lone parent households. These disadvantaged groups also have high poverty rates. In 2021, the at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion rate for people with disabilities and single parents was nearly double and triple that of the general population, respectively. Poverty risks are exacerbated by high inflation and increasing living costs.
Health: health and long-term care systems continue to face long-standing issues
The health and long-term care systems continue to face long-standing issues, despite gradual improvements. The public healthcare system faces significant capacity constraints. Almost half of the population uses private health insurance to bypass long waiting lists in the public system. Ireland also remains the only EU country without universal primary care coverage. With respect to long-term care, the public system focusses on institutional care over home care; the former is relatively costly and limits accessibility. The ageing of the population is expected to put considerable pressure on the sustainability of the health and long-term care systems.
Housing: the initial housing targets set in the ‘housing for all’ plan of 33 000 new homes per year might need to be revised upward substantially
House and rental price growth remained high due to persistent shortfalls in housing supply. In 2022, new housing completions increased by around 40% on the year to almost 30 000. However, this was in part driven by pent-up deliveries due to pandemic delays. Looking ahead, the fall in housing commencements (-12% year-on-year) and planning permissions (-20.5% year-on-year) in the second half of 2022 suggests completions might fall in 2023. In addition, higher-than-expected demographic growth and the need to house people fleeing from Ukraine heightened housing demand, leading to an extremely tight rental market and soaring house prices. This suggests that the initial housing targets set in the ‘housing for all’ plan of 33 000 new homes per year might need to be revised upward substantially. In the short to medium term, the gap between housing supply and demand is thus expected to remain wide. Shortages of social housing have created long waiting lists, have resulted in an over-reliance on short-term rent supplement solutions for 75 000 families, and have contributed to a steep increase in homeless people (22% year-on-year in March 2023). Affordability remains low, especially for poorer cohorts, and is a key challenge for competitiveness, as it hinders the recruitment of skilled foreign labour.
Climate: Ireland is yet to achieve genuine progress in curbing greenhouse gas emissions
In spite of the recent adoption of a strengthened legislative framework for climate action linked to ambitious mitigation targets and the climate action plan 2023, Ireland is yet to achieve genuine progress in curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Achieving national and EU targets will be a major challenge that would require a transformation of many facets of the Irish economy. The climate action plan 2023 highlights the wide-ranging nature of the changes required, and sets objectives and actions across all sectors of the economy. It remains an ambitious plan despite some major weaknesses, mainly linked to unspecified mitigation efforts up to 2030.