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Social Contract

“Ireland, and indeed the planet, face several crises ranging from pandemic to pollution to poverty; a situation where ‘business as usual’ can mean only social and environmental catastrophe.  We have reached a point where adoption of a new Social Contract is surely a necessity. All sectors of Irish society should be engaged in an ongoing Social Dialogue to decide how best to proceed” –stated Dr Seán Healy, in his opening address to Social Justice Ireland’s annual policy conference today (Wednesday, 18th November). 


Social fairness and solidarity are more important than ever in the European Union if it is to meet the challenges of demographic ageing, climate change and digitalisation and deal with the aftermath of Covid-19.  This is according to the latest 'Employment and Social Developments in Europe Report ‘Fairness and Solidarity in the European Social Market Economy’. 

On Thursday, 29th October 2020, the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, delivered a speech to the EEAC / NESC Annual Conference on the need for a "Just Transition for All". This speech echoes the themes of our own Annual Social Policy Conference on the need for a New Social Contract, a New Social Dialogue, taking place next Wednesday, 18th November 2020 from 10am. Registration for each of the three sessions is free and open now.

The National Economic Plan - to be published on Budget day - must give equal weight to environmental, social and economic considerations. Otherwise, this Government will simply repeat the mistakes of the past and many will be left behind.  The National Economic Plan must be underpinned by a new social contract that treats our environment, society and economy equally

On Wednesday, 18th November 2020 Social Justice Ireland held its Annual Social Policy Conference entitled A New Social Contract, A New Social Dialogue: Building a Better Future. This conference featured presentations by national and international experts as well as a panel discussion with representatives of the five pillars of Social Partnership. All presentations given on the day are contained within this book of conference proceedings.

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 decision to put a new social contract and a focus on the wellbeing of Irish people at the heart of the Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael Framework for a New Programme for Government is very welcome. So too is the assertion that there is no going back to the old way of doing things. The fact that the framework recognises the need for new, credible, quality-of-life measures of individual and societal wellbeing and progress, suggest that the next Programme for Government will go beyond economic priorities and targets and take a more holistic approach in its decision-making. Such a development would be very welcome.

Our initial 15-page response to the Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael Framework for a New Programme for Government welcomes some aspects of the plans, raises concerns about others, and proposes a series of specific policy initiatives that would go some distance towards achieving each of the ten mission statements set out in the Framework.

As we face into the most difficult and challenging times most of us have ever known, it is important to acknowledge that despite well documented problems and challenges, Ireland is in the privileged position of having public services and social infrastructure to rely on at a time of crisis.  In the coming months, when we begin to think of the future beyond the current crisis, we need to consider how we can deliver a social contract to meet our needs in changing times?

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.

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