NESC, the National Economic and Social Council is 50 this year. As part of its 50th year work programme, NESC has published a new Secretariat paper, Is Ireland Thriving? - Answers from International Assessments.
This report examines the extent to which Ireland can be described as a thriving country with reference to nine regularly cited assessments (covering well-being; human development; sustainable development; transition performance; social progress; biodiversity; competitiveness; inclusive wealth; and the doughnut model incorporating ecological and planetary boundaries). It also looks at success not just in terms of what has been achieved, but how sustainable that achievement is into the future.
While Ireland has high ratings across each of the international aggregate measures of economic or social performance referred to above, it performs less well when considered in the context of individual indicators. The examples of the approach adopted in the OECD (and Ireland's) well-being framework is used, where Ireland appears to score highly in areas of employment, overall life satisfaction, income poverty, education, and trust in government, and less so on indicators such as housing, cost of living, unemployment among people with a disability, and low pay. Ireland also has the largest gap between young people and older people in the EU when it comes to trusting Government.
Then there is the question of sustainability. Not just in terms of the environment, but also in terms of the longevity of some of the gains achieved. The report emphasises Kate Raworth's Doughnut Economics and the challenges experienced by all countries in maintaining basic social standards while living within planetary boundaries, Ireland being no exception. In addition, Ireland also faces capacity challenges in the provision of infrastructure and services – housing, healthcare, childcare services, transport and energy infrastructure and climate adaptation – that, if not addressed, would undermine Ireland’s ability to thrive.
The authors acknowledge the limitations inherent in the approaches examined, yet their consideration is a necessary starting point in any discussion of a country’s social, economic, and environmental position. The full report & accompanying press release can be found on the NESC website: nesc.ie