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Policy issues concerning Inequality

Early childhood is the stage where education can most effectively influence the development of children and help reverse disadvantage. The most striking feature of investment in education in Ireland relative to other OECD countries is its under-investment in early childhood education.  High quality educational experiences in early childhood contribute significantly to life-long learning success.  This sector needs to be supported by Government, financially and through policy, to ensure that all children have equal access to this success and all of the benefits of quality education.

Digital technology can improve our lives but it also poses a major risk of widening social inequality particularly for people without the skills to navigate digital platforms.  As we move towards a future where digital transformation will disrupt the labour market, having the greatest impact on people with lower levels of education and skills, it is important that this cohort are not left behind.   

The Central Statistics Office recently published the Household Finance and Consumption Survey 2018.  This is the only household survey that collects combined information on asset, income and debt levels of Irish households.  It provides us with a valuable data and insight into where wealth and assets are concentrated (both in terms of location and income deciles), and the levels of debt of Irish households. 

Ireland has one of the most unequal distributions of market income in the European Union. We rely heavily on our tax and social welfare systems to produce a more equal society. High rates of poverty and income inequality have been the norm in Irish society for some time. Read Social Justice Ireland's Election Briefing on Income for an outline of a number of key challenges facing Ireland and some policy proposals that should be in the next Programme for Government.

While Ireland faces a number of challenges, including deficits in our public services and infrastructure, unacceptable rates of poverty, and high national debt, it is important to remember that many people in the world face a far worse situation.  It is important that Ireland plays an active and effective part in promoting sustainable development in the Global South and that all of Ireland’s policies are consistent with such development.  Read Social Justice Ireland's Election Briefing on Global South and ODA for an outline of a number of key challenges and some policy proposals that should be in the next Programme for Government.

The negative impact on rural towns and communities from the potential fallout from Brexit is receiving welcome attention at present.  But what about the other threat to rural Ireland and regional development - the impact that automation and robotics will have on employment across the regions?  This issue should be front and centre as Government rolls out the Climate Action Plan and the National Development Plan.

Social Justice Ireland makes the case for an increase in core social welfare rates of €9 per week for single people in Budget 2020 to ensure the welfare benchmark is maintained at the Pre-Budget Forum in Dublin Castle.

The work of Ireland’s carers receives minimal recognition despite the essential role their work plays in society.   It is time that Government allocate sufficient resources to supporting the work of carers in Ireland.

Living in poverty is a reality for one in five children in Ireland.  This means that around 230,000 children in Ireland are living in families with incomes below the poverty line.  This is one of the main findings from Poverty Focus 2019.  How long more can we afford to ignore these children and their living standards?  This issue can be addressed effectively.  Child poverty can be eliminated.

The headline social inclusion targets addressed in the Irish National Reform Programme are focussed on employment, education and ‘poverty and social exclusion’.  How is Ireland performing on the social inclusion aspects of our National Reform Programme and our Europe 2020 targets?

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