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Median incomes increase but numbers in poverty still worrying

The CSO Survey on Income and Living Conditions has been published.  It shows that despite an increase in median incomes 789,855 people are living in poverty in Ireland today.  Of this number 245,645 are children under the age of 18.  Despite the increase in median 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 developed Western economy.

  • 1.2 million people in Ireland are experiencing deprivation.
  • 460,612 people in Ireland are living in consistent poverty.
  • 105,051 people living in poverty are in employment (the working poor).
  • 394,484 children are living in households experiencing deprivation.

It is important to note that social welfare is of critical importance in addressing poverty.  Without social welfare payments 46.3 per cent of Ireland’s population would be living in poverty; such an underlying poverty rate suggests a deeply unequal distribution of income.

Almost 790,000 people in Ireland are surviving on incomes of less than €11,863 per annum.   Also of concern is that 406,612 of the people who are subsisting on this very low income are being deprived of basic essentials.  The number of people experiencing deprivation is more than twice what it was in 2007.  This represents a huge challenge to Government and to Society.

If Government wishes to address and close this income divide future 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. 

Government can make the right policy choices and commit to the elimination of poverty.  Social Justice Ireland has previously published 10 policy proposals for addressing income inequality and reducing poverty rates. These are:

  1. Set a goal of eliminating poverty in the course of a single five-year Dáil term.
  2. Introduce a full Basic Income system – to replace the parts of the social welfare system that are no longer fit for purpose.
  3. In the meantime, benchmark social welfare payments – to ensure that poverty is eliminated among people depending on social welfare.
  4. Ensure equity of social welfare rates – to stop the discrimination against certain groups on an arbitrary basis such as age.
  5. Provide adequate payments for children – to end child poverty.
  6. Support the widespread adoption of the Living Wage so that inequality can be reduced and low-paid workers receive an adequate income and can afford a minimum, but decent, standard of living.
  7. Make tax credits refundable – to eliminate poverty among people with low-paid jobs.
  8. Introduce a universal state pension – to ensure all older people have sufficient income to live with dignity.
  9. Introduce a cost of disability payment – to ensure that people with disabilities are not driven into poverty by the additional cost of their disability.
  10. Prioritise the reduction of rural poverty – to redress the current imbalance between urban and rural poverty in Ireland.

The Annual Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC), on which these numbers are based, was published today by the CSO.