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One quarter of Ireland's income goes to just 10% of the population

The bottom 40% of the country’s population receives 22% of national income, according to a Tasc report.

shutterstock_1113101495 Source: Shutterstock/Hyejin Kang

THE TOP TEN percent of Ireland’s population receives almost 25% of the national income, according to a report published today.

TASC, the Think Tank for Action on Social Change, is launching the ‘The State We Are In: Inequality in Ireland’ report which notes that a “disproportionate share of national income” goes to richer people. 

The bottom 40% of the country’s population receives only 22% of national income while the top one percent receives over 5% of the national income.

Compared to the more equal countries of Europe, “it’s not so much Ireland’s poorest that fare as badly”, the report’s author Dr Robert Sweeney has said. 

“Where Ireland is unusual is in the low share of national income that goes to the working-to-lower middle classes,” says Sweeney. “The top ten percent does nicely and the top one percent in particular.”

The reason for that? Insufficient pay.

In examining Ireland’s persistent inequality and its impact on working to lower-middle classes, TASC’s report finds that the situation is driven largely by Ireland’s low pay and weak labour protections.

Today’s report notes that the Government’s tax and social welfare payments protect the poorest in society, to an extent. ”We need [payments] in order to reduce poverty,” Sweeney told TheJournal.ie.

However, many Government payments are also subsidising low pay and precarious work practices in Ireland. “At the same time there are still quite a lot of people who are in work [who need] payments,” says Sweeney. 

While aiding struggling households, government payment also enable poor work practices to continue. There is, therefore, significant scope for greater redistribution between high and low-pay workers, he says.

This is most evident in Ireland’s retail sector. 

‘Retail workers’

Employing 17% of the bottom 40% of Ireland’s workforce, wholesale and retail is the “most important source of employment for lower-income groups,” today’s report notes.

By comparison to Europe, Irish retail workers receive 10% less of a share in economic funds. Due to Ireland’s employer-friendly labour market, higher levels of low-pay are common and just one-third of the Irish workforce is covered by collective bargaining. “There is significant scope for redistribution in that sector,” says Sweeney. 

There are a number of ways to address this, he says, one of which is the introduction of a living wage in Ireland. 

The TASC report – drawn up as part of the larger European report Cherishing All Equally 2019: Inequality in Europe and Ireland – notes that despite Government payments, the incidence of people ‘at risk of poverty’ remains “stubbornly high in Ireland”.

At 24%, that figure is only surpassed by Southern European states and a number of Eastern European states. Irish women and children are also at high risk of poverty with 27.3% of children at risk of poverty in 2016.

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