Building a New Social Contract - this time no-one must be left behind

Posted on Monday, 14 September 2020
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If Government is serious about our long-term recovery, about securing our public finances in a changed world, decarbonising the economy and preparing for digital and technological transformation then the National Economic Plan must be underpinned by a new social contract that treats our environment, society and economy equally.

 A New Social Contract – Policy Recommendations’ contains more than eighty specific policy recommendations that would go a considerable direction towards a new social contract to improve the quality of life and wellbeing of everyone.  It would also ensure that the forthcoming National Economic Plan really does deliver a fair recovery for everyone.

The strength of the social contract is in its ability to improve the quality of life and wellbeing of all citizens and communities.  We welcome the ambition of Government to provide each citizen with accessible and affordable health care, housing, education, childcare and disability services and the commitment to the living wage, upskilling, and a dignified retirement.  How this ambition is delivered will be a yardstick for how committed Government really is to a new social contract.

This publication contains more than eighty policy recommendations for a new social contract.  They are designed to deliver environmental, social and economic sustainability.  We believe that these policies, if incorporated into the upcoming National Economic Plan, would, over a term of office, deliver a fair recovery and improve the quality of life for all.

Summary of key policy recommendations:

Vibrant Economy

  • Ring-fence the COVID costs incurred in 2020, 2021 and 2022 to deal with the deficit.
  • Integrate a Sustainable Development Framework into economic policy
  • Increase investment in infrastructure and services.
  • Increase the minimum wage to the level of the Living Wage
  • Set an ambitious national poverty reduction target.

Decent Services and Infrastructure

  • Fully resource the implementation of Sláintecare.
  • Set a target of 20% of all housing stock in Ireland to be social housing.
  • Give greater recognition of the role of carers and work in the home.
  • Introduce a floor of Basic Income and Basic Services.
  • Introduce State-led childcare

Just Taxation

  • Commit to increasing the total tax take by between €2.5 to €3bn annually
  • Introduce a minimum effective rate of corporation tax of 6% on all corporate profits passing through Ireland.
  • Clarify and enforce the Vacant Site Levy.
  • Reintroduce Windfall Gains tax at 80%.
  • Provide an Annual Review of Tax Expenditures.
  • Establish a Taxation Commission with a clear mandate to set out a pathway towards increasing the total tax-take and broadening the tax base.

Good Governance

  • Introduce impact assessment and poverty proofing on all Government initiatives.
  • Ensure that Budgetary allocations are valid, realistic and transparent.
  • Introduce an ex-ante social impact assessment of all policy proposals to be discussed at Oireachtas Committees.
  • Establish a National Economic and Social Dialogue process to include all five pillars, ensuring that all voices are heard and include all stakeholders.


  • Ensure that all people are treated fairly in the creation of policies and projects that address climate change, as well as in the systems that create climate change.    
  • Develop a new National Index of Progress, a Sustainable Progress Index, ensuring social and environmental issues are incorporated into our national accounts.
  • Ensure sustainability forms the basis of future agricultural policy.
  • Develop a comprehensive mitigation and transition strategy.
  • Invest in environmentally friendly public transport networks and in hard infrastructure for cycle lanes.
  • Ensure balanced rural and regional development through an integrated rural development policy structure.

The economic lockdown is imposing the greatest cost on those already worst off.  Thousands of jobs have been lost in hospitality, leisure, and related sectors which are characterised by a high incidence of low pay.  Many of those who are still working and risking their lives, such as carers and healthcare support workers, as well as shelf-stackers and cleaners, are also among the lowest paid in our society. 

We must learn from this experience and tackle the inequality and exclusion that we have thus far failed to address.  In order to do so we must base our National Economic Plan on a new social contract. 

The National Economic Plan must be underpinned by five key building blocks; a vibrant economy, decent services and infrastructure, just taxation, good governance and sustainability. The policy recommendations we have published today will deliver these five key elements.

We need investment in infrastructure and services to develop a thriving economy.  We need just taxation to fund this investment.  We need good governance to ensure people have a say in shaping the decisions that impact them.  We also need to ensure that everything that is done is sustainable; environmentally, economically and socially.

Now is the time for creative thinking about what society should look like when the pandemic has passed.  The National Economic Plan offers an opportunity to implement a new social contract that can truly improve the quality of life for all, while charting a course for our long-term recovery.  Government must seize this opportunity.

‘A New Social Contract – Policy Recommendations’ is available to download here.