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OECD proposal on unemployment payments is preposterous and perverse

Social Justice Ireland has strongly criticised a proposal from the OECD that unemployment payments should be reduced over time to encourage unemployed people to take up employment. The vast majority of unemployed people would take up any job that was available.   Just a few years ago the long-term unemployment rate in Ireland was one of the lowest in the world at 1.3%.  Many people became unemployed because of the collapse in the economy. The greatest devastation of this recession is being borne by those who have lost their jobs. There is no evidence to suggest these people would not take up a job if it were available.  Blaming unemployed people for the failures in the economy and the inability to produce jobs is perverse in the extreme.
Social Justice Ireland wishes to point out that:

  • Two thirds of a million people in Ireland are at risk of poverty.
  • At least 90,000 of those employed in Ireland are at risk of poverty. These are the ‘working poor’.
  • Social welfare payments for unemployed people are €34 a week below the poverty line for a single person and €56 a week for a couple over 25 years of age.
  • Social welfare payments for unemployed people below 25 years of age are up to €122 a week for a single person and €168 a week for a couple belo! w the poverty line.

The proposal by the OECD that unemployment payments should be reduced further shows the OECD is totally out of touch with the reality of the lives of people who are unemployed and are ignoring the fact that they are unemployed because a sufficient number of jobs don’t exist in the economy.  

The claim that everybody should make a contribution to the adjustment required in Ireland at present has been repeated like a mantra in policy discussion and public commentary. Yet it is only half true.  Yes, Social Justice Ireland agrees everyone should make a contribution insofar as they can. But we do not accept that some people should be driven into poverty because of the contribution that is demanded of them. To do this is to try to solve one problem by creating a deeper and more long-lasting one. “We reject any attempt to solve Ireland’s problems by increasing inequality or by forcing the most vulnerable members of the popu! lation into a situation where they do not have the resources to live life with dignity” according to Fr Healy. ‘Hits’ on poor people and the low-paid have far bigger negative impact than larger hits on the better off who have resources to absorb the hits. It is profoundly wrong for example that poor people carry a major burden while senior bond-holders, who carry a large part of the responsibility for Ireland’s implosion, make no contribution to sharing the burden.

Social Justice Ireland’s most recent Policy Briefing addressed the topic of Work, Jobs and Unemployment can be accessed here