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2018 – An opportunity to build a fairer Ireland

As we enter 2018, Social Justice Ireland challenges the Government to take this opportunity to address the serious issues facing Ireland.

While the economy is doing well it is crucial that policy-makers realise that many on lower incomes are not benefiting as they should. 790,000 people in Ireland are living in poverty.  A quarter of a million of these are children. 1 million people in Ireland are experiencing deprivation. 105,000 people with a job have incomes so low they are living in poverty – these are the ‘working poor’.

Despite an increase in average incomes and other signs of economic recovery, these figures show that a significant proportion of the population is still living in very difficult circumstances. These figures are unacceptable in a rich, developed country like Ireland.  

As Ireland’s economy grows and resources become available it is essential that these are used to address the major challenges faced by many of Ireland’s people in areas such as housing and homelessness, healthcare, poverty and precarious employment.

As IBEC has recently pointed out, disposable incomes of Irish households are growing at four times the euro-zone average. However, rents in Ireland are rising at six times the European median. We welcome IBEC’s conclusion that a failure to resolve the housing crisis will eventually lead to higher prices on other goods as well, and a loss in competitiveness.

It is also extremely worrying that despite falling unemployment and Ireland allegedly having the fastest growing economy in Europe, there is little relief for the working poor. There has been no change in the number of people in employment who are at risk of poverty.

It is clear that a rising tide does not automatically lift all boats, and that specific interventions are required to tackle the problems highlighted. If Government wishes to address issues of reducing poverty and ‘making work pay’, policy must prioritise those at the bottom of the income distribution. These policies must be designed to address the wide variety of households and adults in poverty.

Regional differences also need to be addressed as poverty in the Border, Midlands and West region is more than 50 per cent higher per capita than in the Southern and Eastern Region. Social Justice Ireland has highlighted, on a number of occasions over the last few years, the imbalanced nature of Ireland’s recovery from a regional perspective. The data on poverty complements that on employment which shows that certain areas of the country are benefiting far less than other.

Government must make the right policy choices and commit to the building of a fairer future for all. Social Justice Ireland has previously published a policy framework setting out the priorities that Government should take if it is to deliver five key outcomes: a vibrant economy, decent services and infrastructure, just taxation, good governance and sustainability. Taking on this challenge for 2018 would be an excellent investment in all our futures.

Details of these proposals are available at https://www.socialjustice.ie/sites/default/files/attach/publication/4783...