Managing change - delivering fair outcomes in a time of transitions

Posted on Monday, 29 April 2024
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Managing change
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Ireland is going through several major transitions which will transform how our society and economy function.  These transitions are already well underway.  Climate change is taking its toll on both our natural environment and human society. The digital and deglobalisation transitions are gaining momentum and are already restructuring our economy and the way we work. Demographic change is already having a significant impact on the demand and delivery of social services and infrastructure.  Change is inevitable, but it is the responsibility of Government to manage change in a way that delivers outcomes that are fair and just.


Delivering improved outcomes in priority areas - key messages from ‘Social Justice Matters: 2024 guide to a fairer Irish society’

Managing change effectively will allow us to harness the benefits of transition to transform our society and our economy.  While much is changing, many of the problems facing our society are longstanding: inequality, poverty, and under-investment in our social infrastructure remain major challenges.  If these existing problems, many of which are already at crisis level, are left unresolved, they risk exacerbating the negative consequences of the social, economic, technological and environmental transitions underway.  Government must take appropriate steps to plan for and manage these transitions in a manner that also resolves these long standing problems.  Sustainable long-term policies will have enduring benefits for everyone. A robust and adequately resourced social and economic infrastructure is as important as sound fiscal policy for our nation’s long-term stability and success.  As Government looks to its last year in office, the long-term future of our country must take precedence over short term political gains



Housing affordability continues to be a critical issue in Ireland. The on-going failure of Government policy in this area for more than a decade has produced a crisis of unprecedented proportions across much of Irish society.   Government must deal with population expansion and the housing needs of an ageing population, an availability crisis in social and affordable housing as well as existing pent up demand. To manage current and future challenges, Government should:

  • Address affordability issues by concentrating on supply-side cost reductions rather than demand-side income subsidies.
  • Set a target of 20 per cent of all housing stock to be social housing and achieve this through directly building more social housing and decentralising responsibility for social housing to Local Authorities.
  • Take a life-cycle approach to housing development and town planning and adopt Universal Design principles in the development of housing responses.


Ireland’s population is growing across all regions, with the most significant growth amongst older age groups with the latest census figures showing a 28 per cent increase in the population aged 65 and over.  Ageing populations represent increased longevity, and this is a success story that is to be welcomed. But it must also be planned for and managed.  Significant increases in the older population means there will be increased numbers living with long-term illness or disability.  This must be planned for using an appropriate model of healthcare.  To manage this change Government should:

  • Enhance the process of planning and investment so that the healthcare system can cope with the increase and diversity in population and the ageing of the population projected for coming decades.
  • Create a statutory entitlement to Home Care Services.
  • Complete the roll-out of the Community Health Networks (and their staffing) across the country and thus increase the availability and quality of Primary Care and Social Care services.


The problem of inequality has been persistent over many years, but the cost-of-living crisis and inflationary pressures in recent years have again brought it into keener focus.  In 2023 the total income of the richest 20 per cent was almost four times that of the poorest 20 per cent.  Income inequality has remained stubbornly stable over the past fifty years. While the total value of income has increased, not much has changed about its distribution.   In the midst of considerable wealth generation, many people in our society continue to struggle to get by.  Temporary supports are not an adequate response to a continuous crisis of income inadequacy.  To address this persistent problem, and prevent the digital and green transitions exacerbating existing inequality, Government should:

  • Benchmark social welfare rates to average weekly earnings and maintain adequate levels of social welfare.
  • Support the widespread adoption of the Living Wage so that low paid workers receive an adequate income and can afford a minimum, but decent, standard of living.
  • Introduce a cost of disability allowance to address the poverty and social exclusion of people with a disability.


Taxation plays a key role in shaping Irish society through funding public services, supporting economic activity, and redistributing resources to enhance the fairness of society. The level of revenue Government decides to raise determines the level of services and infrastructure on which we all rely.  Demographic, green and digital transitions, combined with existing resourcing commitments in areas such as health, pensions, local government, EU contributions and modernising our water infrastructure means that Ireland’s overall level of taxation will have to rise significantly in the years to come – a reality Irish society and the political system need to begin to seriously address.  In order to plan and reform our taxation system to meet these changes Government should:

  • Set out a new target for Ireland’s total tax take and a roadmap for how to reach this target, ensuring our taxation goals are aligned with our economic, environmental and social goals.
  • Broaden our tax take with an increased focus on measures such as the consumption of fuel and fertilisers, waste taxes, a land rent tax, and the successful implementation of a minimum effective corporate tax rate.
  • Poverty-proof all budget tax packages to ensure that tax changes do not further widen the gap between those with low incomes and the better off.

A new Social Contract

Given the scale of the crises facing our country, immediate and significant investment is required in housing, infrastructure, social services, renewable energy and income adequacy. None of this is beyond our capacity, but it does require a new social contract.  A new social contract would support Government to manage change effectively and appropriately. It would also require that climate action be urgently prioritised; to date the policy response has been wholly inadequate. The same can be said of the ineffectual response to the current housing crisis.

A new social contract will allow us to get out in front of problems by identifying them at the earliest stages, facilitate communities and sectors to come to terms with the coming change, and build consensus about how best to manage that change in a way that allows communities to have a say in policies that affect them.

In recent times we have seen the political consequences of people who feel they have been left behind by society.  Social Justice Ireland has long advocated for participation and social dialogue, involving all sectors of Irish society, to strengthen the social fabric. Ultimately only social justice and the wellbeing of everybody in our country, whether born here or newly arrived, will ensure a stable, healthy, and open society. A new social contract, underpinned by social dialogue is essential to ensure that no-one is left behind in the multiple transitions facing us.