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Income Distribution and Poverty


Poverty Focus examines the nature and experience of poverty in Ireland and sets out a series of solutions that could be adopted by Government.  Each year Poverty Focus highlights one area of concern while also commenting on the general policy landscape.  This year we pay particular attention to the impact of social welfare rates on low income households.


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.


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.  


Ireland is among the signatories of the recent Joint Declaration by the Ministers of the EPSCO Council ‘Overcoming poverty and social exclusion – mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on families – working together to develop prospects for strong children’. If Government is truly committed to the stated objectives of the joint declaration then significant resources and serious political and policy commitment to addressing child and family poverty are required.


The CSO recently published 'Carers and Social Supports' as part of of the Irish Health Survey 2019 which gives data and insight into the lives of Carers in Ireland.  Almost one in eight people aged 15 and over provide care in Ireland, more women (14%) than men (11%) are carers, people in the age group 45-54 provide the most care, and, almost one in five carers report some form of depression.  


Budget 2021 has left Ireland’s poorest people behind as Government decided not to increase core social welfare rates. Despite allocating more resources than any previous Budget in the history of the State, the distribution of those resources was such that the gap between the poor and the better off will widen in 2021 and inequality will increase. This is a totally unacceptable outcome.


The deprivation figures published by the CSO show that almost 900,000 people still struggle to achieve a basic standard of living. The yearly increase was more than 140,000, and the fact that deprivation is increasing for almost every socio-demographic group is of real concern. 

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