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Over ten years on from the financial crash, and after six years of economic growth, before the onset of Covid-19, across the European Union there were 16.8 million people unemployed, 6.65 million people long-term unemployed, and 86 million people living in poverty of whom 19 million were children.  This presents significant challenges as Europe grapples with the social and economic consequences of the current crisis.


‘A Rising Tide Failing to Lift All Boats’ is the latest publication in Social Justice Ireland’s European Research Series.   This report analyses performance in areas such as poverty and inequality, employment, access to key public services and taxation.  The report also points to key policy proposals and alternatives for discussion.  These include the right to sufficient income, meaningful work and access to essential quality services.  The policy proposals explore how these areas might be delivered upon in a changing world.

As we navigate through the global crisis caused by COVID-19, it is clear that rural areas will bear a significant social and economic impact over the long-term.  The challenges that faced rural Ireland prior to the current pandemic such as higher poverty rates, lower incomes, fewer public services remain, and new challenges have emerged, not least the impact of a potentially prolonged period of unemployment on areas that were already struggling.

It is clear that tax policy will play a vital role both in the immediate Government response to support people and businesses, and in rebuilding our society and economy once the worst of the health impacts are contained.  The new Government has an opportunity to reform and broaden our tax base and lay the foundations to increase our total tax take now to ensure we are well prepared to meet any future shocks.  We have a once in a generation opportunity to build a new society, a new economy and a new country that reflects the lessons we have learned in recent weeks. 

The European Union faces many challenges in relation to healthcare, cost of housing and financial distress that will be further exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.  Ireland and the EU urgently need to develop substantial coordinated actions on these issues.  ​

Family poverty remains one of the largest determinants of educational outcomes in Ireland.  The benefits of investing in education, to the individual, to the economy and to society, far outweigh any initial outlay of resources.  Read Social Justice Ireland's Election Briefing on Education for an outline of a number of key challenges and some policy proposals that should be in the next Programme for Government.

The Government recently published the 2019 Spending Review of Carer’s Supports.  The findings of this review point to a need to increase investment in community care, and home help and to provide a statutory entitlement to Home Care Packages if we are to meet potential future demand.

The ongoing confusion regarding the funding of applications to the SEAI Deep Retrofitting pilot is disappointing, particularly as one of the headline policies in the Climate Action Plan 2019 to ensure Ireland transitions to a low carbon future is increased retrofitting.  Will Budget 2020 deliver the resources required to establish a comprehensive and ambitious retrofitting programme?

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The local and European elections threw up a variety of diverse issues many of which seem to be at odds with each other.  Concerns among voters about the impact of climate change and about the future of agriculture and livelihood of farmers may seem incompatible at first glance, but yet they are both very important issues to different sectors of society.  What these elections remind us is that a comprehensive policy framework is required to make progress on these issues and deliver a better future for everyone.

Local government has the potential to transform our communities but that potential is not being realised.  It is time to harness this potential and deliver more power locally.

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