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Social Inclusion


How we plan our finances, and what we choose to prioritise, post-Covid-19, will have profound implications for the future of our economy and society. To this end Social Justice Ireland proposed to the Select Committee on Budgetary Oversight that the priorities for Budget 2022 should be adequate social welfare rates and poverty reduction, just taxation, housing for all and tackling unemployment. 


At the European level, what the pandemic has cast doubt on is the very fundamentals of European integration. The main features of the European Union, what could be described as its “pillars”, are these: the single market and freedom of movement, the euro and the Stability and Growth Pact, and competition and state-aid law. We can already look ahead and see that the post-crisis EU could be standing on very different foundations if the questioning of the three basic pillars continues over time or, conversely, it could just as easily go back to its old ways.  What will the world environment in which this happens be, though? Here there are four possible scenarios emerging.


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’. 


Government should increase in core social welfare rates of €7 per week in Budget 2021 and set a three-year target for Government to reach the benchmark of 27.5 per cent of average earnings.  In the forthcoming Budget Government should also complete the equalisation of Jobseeker’s rates for young people under 26, introduce a cost of disability allowance and introduce a universal state pension.


The cuts to funding for the Community and Voluntary sector made during the last recession have yet to be restored. Covid-19 has again highlighted the importance of communities. This support must now be formally recognised in Budget 2021 with investment in programmes that support community engagement; deal with deficit demand; tackle social exclusion; and sustain communities.


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.

An open and transparent policy evaluation process, with meaningful engagement from all stakeholders, would ensure that we learn from our successes and from our mistakes. Such a process would ensure that we evaluate both and offer a framework to take our policy successes and replicate them across Government.  Social Justice Ireland believes strongly in the importance of developing a rights-based approach to social, economic, and cultural policy.  A key policy measure to deliver an open and transparent policy evaluation process is to measure the socio-economic impact of each budget.  This should be a statutory responsibility for Government.

Government should strive to create a new economic model based on fairness.   This would ensure that the benefits accruing from a vibrant economy would be distributed in a more equal manner.  Addressing poverty and social exclusion will play a key role in this regard.  The new Government should set an ambitious national poverty reduction target and make persistent poverty the primary indicator of poverty measurement.

Life on a low income is the norm for a large proportion of our society. Prior to the current public health crisis, one in every seven people in Ireland lived with an income below the poverty line; about 680,000 people. Looking ahead, these numbers look set to rise as the very uneven impact of the Covid-19 crisis unfolds. 

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