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Social Welfare


Over the past few years Social Justice Ireland has developed its ability to track the distributive impact of annual Budgets on households across Irish society. Our analysis tracks changes from year to year (pre and post each Budget) and across a number of recent years.  As different policy priorities can be articulated for each Budget, it is useful to bring together the cumulative effect of policy changes on various household types.


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.


Social welfare rates must be increased in Budget 2021.  The gap between those reliant on social welfare and those on average weekly earnings is growing.  Average earnings to the end of Q2 2020 increased by 6 per cent, whereas core social welfare rates have seen no increase since Budget 2019.  Social welfare rates must be increased in Budget 2021, in line with a movement towards 27.5 per cent of average weekly earnings in order to address this growing problem.  If not, then this Government will leave those who are most vulnerable behind. 

This paper makes proposals regarding the need to increase current social welfare rates and set a pathway to indexation to 27.5 per cent of average weekly earnings in Budget 2021.  It also reviews the process by which the basic social welfare payment became benchmarked to 30 per cent of Gross Average Industrial Earnings.

Poverty focus is an annual publication from Social Justice Ireland where we focus on the nature and experience of poverty in Ireland. Drawing on the available statistical evidence, we outline how poverty is measured, the value of the poverty line and consider many of the groups in our society who are most exposed to living life below the poverty line.

To unravel the two-tier welfare system that has been temporarily created as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, and to truly deliver a fair and sustainable economy the new Government should develop a programme to index social welfare rates to the Minimum Essential Standard of Living over a five-year term. 

Adequate social welfare payments are required to prevent and address poverty. Without the social welfare system 43.8 per cent of the Irish population would have been living in poverty in 2017. In order to keep pace with earnings growth, social welfare rates should increase by €9 per week in Budget 2020.

Social Justice Ireland makes the case for an increase in core social welfare rates of €9 per week for single people in Budget 2020 to ensure the welfare benchmark is maintained at the Pre-Budget Forum in Dublin Castle.

Living in poverty is a reality for one in five children in Ireland.  This means that around 230,000 children in Ireland are living in families with incomes below the poverty line.  This is one of the main findings from Poverty Focus 2019.  How long more can we afford to ignore these children and their living standards?  This issue can be addressed effectively.  Child poverty can be eliminated.

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