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COMMENT: Rising economic tide not lifting all boats

Monday, 15th January, 2018 7:59am
COMMENT: Rising economic tide not lifting all boats

Comment: Dr Seán Healy

COMMENT: Rising economic tide not lifting all boats

Comment: Dr Seán Healy

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Comment: Dr Seán Healy

WHILE the economy is doing well, it is crucial that policymakers realise that many on lower incomes are not benefitting as they should. 

In Ireland, 790,000 are living in poverty. A quarter of a million of these are children. One million people in this country are experiencing deprivation; 105,000 people with a job have incomes so low they are living in poverty – these are the ‘working poor’.

Despite an increase in average incomes and other signs of economic recovery, these figures show that a significant proportion of the population is still living in very difficult circumstances. These figures are unacceptable in a rich, developed country like Ireland.

As our economy grows and resources become available, it is essential that these are used to address the major challenges faced by many of Ireland’s people in areas such as housing and homelessness, healthcare, poverty and precarious employment.

As IBEC has recently pointed out, disposable incomes of Irish households are growing at four times the Eurozone average. However, rents in Ireland are rising at six times the European median. We welcome IBEC’s conclusion that a failure to resolve the housing crisis will eventually lead to higher prices on other goods and a loss in competitiveness.

It is extremely worrying that despite falling unemployment and Ireland allegedly having the fastest growing economy in Europe, there is little relief for the working poor. There has been no change in the number of people in employment who are at risk of poverty.

It is clear that a rising tide does not automatically lift all boats and that specific interventions are required to tackle the problems highlighted.

If the Government wishes to address issues of reducing poverty and ‘making work pay’, policy must prioritise those at the bottom of the income distribution. These policies must be designed to address the wide variety of households and adults in poverty.

Regional differences also need to be addressed as poverty in the border, midlands and west region is more than 50 per cent higher per capita than in the southern and eastern region. 

The Government must make the right policy choices and commit to the building of a fairer future for all. Social Justice Ireland has previously published a policy framework setting out the priorities that the Government should take if it is to deliver five key outcomes: a vibrant economy, decent services and infrastructure, just taxation, good governance and sustainability.

Dr Seán Healy is a director of Social Justice Ireland

 

Almost 800,000 people are living in poverty in Ireland. PHOTO: BIGSTOCK

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