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Policy Issues Home

A wide range of material on many policy issues is available on this page.  This includes both material and commentary from Social Justice Ireland and material from other sources.  The policy issues are listed alphabetically in the menu on this page.

If a government is setting environmental goals, it is important that its taxation system supports these goals. There is great scope in Ireland for shifting the burden of taxation away from productive activity and onto activity which reduces social wellbeing, depletes natural resources and biodiversity, harms the environment, and contributes to climate change. The taxes that people and organisations pay should, to the greatest extent possible, be based on the value they subtract by their use of common resources.

The full cost to Ireland of the COVID-19 pandemic is as yet unknown.  Our unemployment rate was 16.5 per cent in March 2020 and the Stability Programme Update (SPU) estimates a possible general government deficit of €23 billion this year; and the Exchequer receipts for March 2020 were almost €1 billion lower than March 2019Social Justice Ireland recently published our briefing on policy options for Ireland’s Taxation System post-COVID 19.  Here we explore one option in particular, an increase in Corporation Tax.

Many well-known clothing brands and retailers have responded to the COVID-19 crisis by cancelling orders, or by demanding retroactive price reductions for goods already in production or completed. This is leading to large-scale dismissals of garment workers in developing countries, and to the inability of many companies in these countries to pay their workers. Many of these workers already work for low wages in poor conditions. With little or no social protection, this loss of income leaves garment workers and their families in an incredibly vulnerable position.

To unravel the two-tier welfare system that has been temporarily created as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, and to truly deliver a fair and sustainable economy the new Government should develop a programme to index social welfare rates to the Minimum Essential Standard of Living over a five-year term. 

All plans for recovery from the present crisis must ensure that the economy and society are treated equally and addressed simultaneously.  Analysing the Stability Programme Update (SPU) recently published by Government and reflecting on the commentary on its implications, it is clear that Ireland is in danger of repeating the mistakes of the past.  One of the major lessons to be learned from the crisis of 2008/9 and the subsequent recovery is that giving priority to the economy over all else simply leads to some parts of society doing very well while great swathes are left further and further behind.

The latest CSO figures show that 122,800 Irish workers earn the minimum wage or less, far below what is required for a socially acceptable standard of living in Ireland. While Social Justice Ireland welcomes the fall in the proportion of employees earning the minimum wage or lower, it still should be noted that the minimum wage remains about 18 per cent below the Living Wage.

It is clear that tax policy will play a vital role both in the immediate Government response to support people and businesses, and in rebuilding our society and economy once the worst of the health impacts are contained.  The new Government has an opportunity to reform and broaden our tax base and lay the foundations to increase our total tax take now to ensure we are well prepared to meet any future shocks.  We have a once in a generation opportunity to build a new society, a new economy and a new country that reflects the lessons we have learned in recent weeks. 

The current crisis has highlighted serious issues with income inequality, job precarity and low pay.  The Irish Government introduced a COVID-19 unemployment and illness payment of €350 per week and an income subsidy of 70 to 85 per cent for affected businesses to continue to employ staff who cannot work from home but are not at work as part of the “essential services”.

Social Justice Ireland believes that the introduction of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) in Ireland would go a long way to supporting the right of everyone to have a decent income.  But how might it be paid for?  And how could it be implemented?

Fundamental Human Rights are enshrined in our Constitution and detailed in our laws.  At a time of crisis, emergency powers can be a necessary tool to ensure that society stays safe and that decisions can be made quickly to respond to emerging issues.  However, the two are not mutually exclusive.  Emergency powers must be proportionate, and be interpreted in the interest of human rights and the common good.  They should also be time-limited to ensure that, once the crisis passes, these exceptional powers that, even necessarily, impact on our fundamental freedoms are revoked. 

This legislation introducing emergency powers to respond to COVID-19 confers wide-ranging powers on Government and State operators at a significant cost to the Exchequer.  Here we provide a brief overview of what they are and what they are expected to cost.

UN Independent Expert Bohoslavsky has called for a human rights-based response to the current pandemic, asserting that austerity cannot be an option and that there must be an immediate emergency response for the vulnerable (including an emergency basic income, housing and essential services). Economic policies and entitlements must be consistent with public health and human rights and there should be some reflief of both private and sovereign debt. Fiscal policies should finance social justice, and the opportunity for a real global green change should not be missed.

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