Government needs to get serious about its commitment to the Well-being Framework

Posted on Monday, 5 December 2022
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How is Ireland doing? In a country that still is unable to provide secure affordable housing, timely access to healthcare, support children with extra educational needs and has almost 595,000 people living in poverty, we have a lot of work to do to deliver wellbeing for all.  How do we measure the success or failure of a society? What do economic indicators mean for the health and happiness of individuals?  Government has a wellbeing framework and dashboard in place but what things have we chosen to measure, and what are we doing with this information? Ultimately, as a nation, we want to be well, safe and fulfilled and we want to ensure that so are the generations to come.  In this report we analyse the eleven dimensions of Government’s Well-being Framework and progress to date. We then outline specific policy proposals for each dimension that would deliver real progress on improving wellbeing for everyone.  


National Social Monitor ‘Towards Wellbeing for All’

This edition of National Social Monitor ‘Towards Wellbeing for All’ examines the eleven dimensions of Government’s Well-being Framework and identifies more appropriate indicators. It also makes  policy proposals that would deliver real progress on improving wellbeing for everyone. The results are based on our analysis of the indicators contained in the Well-being Framework, and the results of a survey conducted by Social Justice Ireland, which asked respondents to rank a set of indicators. These were  indicators used in the Dashboard and datasets readily available from the CSO and other reputable sources.


National Social Monitor: Towards Wellbeing For All – main findings:

1. Subjective Well-being

This dimension measures overall life satisfaction, social inclusion and access to public services.   On social inclusion, Ireland scores 7.5 out of 10. At a European level, Ireland compares well for the proportion of the population with some or severe self-perceived long-standing limitations in usual activities due to health problems at 16.4 per cent in 2019, the fourth lowest across the EU 28. The proportion of the population who are satisfied with the Administrative Services and Education System are quite high (at 63 and 70 per cent respectively), while just 32 per cent were satisfied with the Health System.

In order to improve subjective well-being Government must support policies that enhance the standard of living of people who are most marginalised, including people with disabilities.

2. Mental and Physical Health

This dimension measures ability to afford adequate healthcare; outpatient and in-patient waiting Lists; and self-reported unmet need for medical attention.  There has been an increase of 43 per cent in outpatient waiting lists over six years, with the number of people currently awaiting outpatient treatment in Ireland is 625,679 compared to 438,267 in September 2016. A similar pattern emerges in respect of inpatient waiting lists, with 26,509 people awaiting treatment in September 2022 17,984 in September 2016, a 47 per cent increase. The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services reported 4,003 children on the waiting list in April 2022 compared to 2,919 in April 2021. 405 of those children had been waiting for more than 12 months.

In order to improve mental and physical health Government must work towards full universal healthcare for all. Ensure new system structures are fit for purpose and publish detailed evidence of how new decisions taken will meet healthcare goals

3. Knowledge and Skills

Ireland’s performance on digital skills is concerning . Over 55 per cent of the population have low or basic digital skills. Over one third of the adult population (36 per cent) has low digital skills, well above the EU average (28 per cent). Only one fifth of the population have basic digital skills.

In order to improve knowledge and skills Government must recognise the  digital and green transition challenges and develop an integrated skills development, digital transition, vocational training, apprenticeship and reskilling strategy.

4. Income and Wealth

The period from 2016 onwards has been one of notable decline in the level of poverty. This has seen the proportion of the population in poverty fall from 16.2 per cent in 2016 to 11.6 per cent in the latest SILC survey. Social Justice Ireland warmly welcomes this progress. We therefore regret choices made in more recent budgets where increases to core welfare rates did not keep pace with inflation.

In order to improve income and wealth Government must adopt targets aimed at reducing poverty among particular vulnerable groups such as children, lone parents, jobless households and those in social rented housing.

5. Housing and Local Area

Mortgage debt burden for those who are most at risk of homelessness refers to borrowers in mortgage arrears for over 10 years. The latest data indicates that 7,870 home mortgages were in arrears for over 10 years in June 2022 (5,860 primary dwelling house (PDH) mortgages and 2,010 buy to let (BTL)), an increase from 6,962 (4,701 PDH and 2,261 BTL) in June 2020. At a European level, Ireland had the second highest rate of arrears on mortgage or rent payments in the EU in 2021 (7 per cent), second only to Greece (8.5 per cent).

In order to improve housing and local area Government must introduce an Equity Scheme for Borrowers in Long Term Mortgage Arrears.

6. Environment, Climate and Biodiversity

Ireland’s fuel mix for electricity generation is still dominated by carbon-based fossil fuels, but the share of renewables is improving, reaching 42 per cent in 2020. However, Ireland is highly dependent on imported fossil fuels for energy, our import dependency was 72 per cent in 2020. This runs contrary to our targets of reducing emissions, increasing renewable energy, and eliminating our dependence on fossil fuels. In 2020 renewables made up 13 per cent of final energy consumption, well short of the 2020 target of 16 per cent. At a European level, Ireland ranks 7th from last for the share of renewable energy in gross final energy consumption.

In order to improve environment, climate and biodiversity Government must review all fossil fuel subsidies and environmentally harmful tax expenditures annually with a view to removing those that do not align with our national climate goals.

7. Safety and Security

There is no standard recording of “gender-based violence”, however the number of recorded crime instances related to sexual offences increased by 38.5 per cent between 2016 and 2021 (from 2,521 to 3,491), while Fraud and Theft Offences, including financial control, increased by 247 per cent (from 4,972 to 17,122). In a European context, data available from the European Institute of Gender Equality indicates that Ireland ranked 9th for the number of sexual assaults on women in 2021 and 6th for rape.

In order to improve safety and security Government must ensure that the 472 places for victims of DSGBV as required by  our ratification of the Istanbul Convention are provided.

8. Work and Job Quality

In 2020 the groups within the Irish population that were at highest risk of poverty included those permanently unable to work due to a long-term illness or a disability and the unemployed. One in five of those classified as “fulfilling domestic tasks” (formerly “on home duties”), mainly women, have an income below the poverty line.

In order to improve work and job quality Government must recognise the challenges of long-term unemployment and of precarious employment and adopt targeted policies to address these.

9. Time Use

International Journal of Health Policy and Management, published in 2022 and based on data from 2016, contains some detail on the average weekly caregiving hours per carer and indicates that Irish carers were fourth in the EU-28 in terms of average weekly caregiving hours per carer and had the highest Annual non-Professional Caregiving Value per Carer at €15,002 (followed by Luxembourg at €14,702 and the United Kingdom at €13,470.

In order to improve time use Government must recognise that the term “work” is not synonymous with the concept of “paid employment”. Everybody has a right to work, i.e. to contribute to his or her own development and that of the community and the wider society. This, however, should not be confined to job creation. Work and a job are not the same thing.

10. Community, Social Connections and Cultural Participation

The CSO’s Household Environmental Behaviours – Visits to Nature Areas Report Q3 2021 found Urban green spaces were the most popular type of green and natural space visited by Irish households in Quarter 3 of 2021, with 32 per cent of households visiting most days and a further 34 per cent visiting most weeks.

In order to improve community, social connections and cultural participation Government must increase funding to encourage sports participation and active lifestyle programmes.

11. Civic Engagement and Cultural Expression

Voter turnout for General Election 2020 was 62.9 per cent. This is a decrease of 2.2pps on General Election 2016.

In order to improve civic engagement and cultural expression Government must promote deliberative democracy and a process of inclusive social dialogue to ensure there is real and effective monitoring and impact assessment of policy development and implementation using an evidence-based approach at local and national level.

National Social Monitor: Towards Wellbeing for All is available to download here.