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Income Distribution


Social Justice Ireland is proposing a €10 increase in core social welfare payments in Budget 2022. This would set Government on the correct path to benchmark social welfare rates to 27.5 per cent average weekly earnings over a two-year period, which was the standard set in 2007.  Budget 2021 was the second budget in a row which failed to deliver an increase to the minimum social welfare payment.  A repetition of this failure in Budget 2022 would leave those who are most vulnerable in a very difficult position and see them fall further behind.


‘Social Justice Matters Policy Brief’ is a series designed to provide independent and in-depth analysis on important social policy issues and to present policy options that should be prioritised in the coming years.  In this issue we look at the impact of Covid-19 on education at primary level and second level in Ireland.   


The impact of Covid-19 on our education system cannot be understated. It will widen the learning gap between rich and poor, impose long-term losses of income on all students - with disadvantaged students suffering greater learning losses and greater impacts on their lifetime earnings.  It could reverse much of the progress made on addressing educational disadvantage to date.


More than 15% of all those in poverty in Ireland have a job while more than a quarter are children.  This is one of the main findings of Social Justice Ireland’s latest study ‘Poverty Focus 2021’.  This scandalous situation persists despite the reduction in poverty rates in recent years.  While progress in reducing poverty is welcome, Government’s failure to raise core social welfare rates in the last two Budgets will see this progress reversed.


One of the key tools at our disposal to reduce poverty is social welfare. If Government is serious about reducing poverty and meeting the targets set out in the Roadmap for Social Inclusion then the first step must be to benchmark social welfare rates to 27.5 per cent of average earnings, and to do this over either one or two budgetary cycles.


Over the past few years Social Justice Ireland has developed its ability to track the distributive impact of annual Budgets on households across Irish society. Our analysis tracks changes from year to year (pre and post each Budget) and across a number of recent years.  As different policy priorities can be articulated for each Budget, it is useful to bring together the cumulative effect of policy changes on various household types.


Social Justice Ireland
believes in the very important role that social welfare plays in addressing poverty.  Without the social welfare system just over 4 in every 10 people in the Irish population (41.4 per cent) would have been living in poverty in 2019.  In 2021, as we plan future budgetary priorities, it is important that adequate levels of social welfare be maintained to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated.

Annex 3 accompanies chapter 3 'Income Distribution' in Social Justice Matters: 2021 guide to a fairer Irish Society.  

'Building 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 and ensure that a no-one is left behind as our economy and society recovers from the impact of Covid-19.


A mature discussion needs to take place about the price of food and who pays for the additional production costs imposed by increased environmental and other conditions.This is an area where there is potential for collaboration between the environmental and agricultural lobby. Recent evidence of this can be found in the mutual opposition to the ratification of the Mercosur trade deal negotiated by the European Commission.

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