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Social Contract

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted inequalities in society in both health and socio-economic terms. Health inequalities exposed other inequalities as links between those deemed most likely to contract the virus and groups such as those in overcrowed conditions, elderly and/or vulnerable people became more and more visible. These inequalities have meant that for some, coping with the changes brought about by the pandemic, has been very difficult. The community and voluntary sector supported these vulnerable members of society. They worked together with State bodies to bring supports to those in need, while helping to inform policy on protecting the most vulnerable at national level. They must continue to be supported as long as these inequalities exist and be supported to plan for the future.


In its annual Socio-Economic Review Social Justice Ireland argues that fundamental changes are required if Ireland is to have a fair recovery post-pandemic.  Returning to pre-Covid normal would mean failure.  A new Social Contract is needed and it can be developed and delivered.  


The past fifty years has been a period of falling taxes on the rich in developed economies.  A report by the London School of Economics and Political Science has found that reducing taxes on the rich leads to higher income inequality and has little or no impact on economic growth or unemployment.  The report finds major tax cuts for the rich since the 1980s have increased income inequality without any offsetting gains in economic performance.   It concludes that governments seeking to restore public finances following the COVID-19 crisis should therefore not be concerned about the economic consequences of higher taxes on the rich.
 


If Ireland is to succeed in addressing the challenges we are faced with, the pathway to doing so must be founded on consensus, must be well-managed, and must be properly evaluated.  A deliberative decision-making process, involving all stakeholders and founded on reasoned, evidence-based debate is required. 

'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.

On Wednesday, 18th November 2020, Social Justice Ireland held our Annual Social Policy Conference by webinar. This year's theme was 'A New Social Contract, A New Social Dialogue: Building a Better Future'. In case you missed it (or you'd like to revisit the presentations), the videos, papers and graphic reports are all available now.


Covid-19 has caused us to think about many things that previously we may never really have considered: the importance of good public services; the need for a social security system that provides real security in the face of sickness and unemployment; and about concepts such as inter-dependence and solidarity.  It has led us to reassess what we mean by ‘essentially work’; who really are the ‘essential workers’; and is it right that many of them are treated the way they are.  And it has fundamentally changed the relationship between business and the state.


As societies and economies across the globe respond to the Covid pandemic, Ireland has the opportunity to execute a strategy which can address the major structural challenges from both the present and pastand set out a strategy and a blueprint for a better Ireland.


Covid-19 has highlighted things that are profoundly amiss with our Social Contract.  Once the pandemic has been addressed successfully it is crucial that we face up to the radical reforms that are required if we are to deliver a new social contract based on the principles of justice and fairness, with sustainability at its core.

How normal was the world before Covid-19? The last decade has been anything but normal – whether viewed at national or European level, or in broader geopolitical terms.  We, as a planet, face a choice between attempting to develop responses cognitively through a new dialogue, political and social, or simply marching on, brainless, based on some notion of the old normal.

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