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Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland
Poverty

Report: 700,000 living in poverty in Ireland

A new report from Social Justice Ireland says that of those living in poverty in Ireland, 200,000 are children. The organisation says that the social welfare system is not fit for purpose and should be replaced.

A NEW REPORT says that 700,000 people are living in poverty in Ireland – and 200,000 of these are children.

The report from Social Justice Ireland, which is titled Shaping Ireland’s Future, analyses the economic factors facing the Irish public and the impact of policies set by the current Irish Government.

Fr Seán Healy, Director of Social Justice Ireland, commented:

Ireland’s debt is not the debt of the Irish public – it is partly caused by the reckless gambling of German and French banks. It is unjust and indefensible that Ireland must bear the current debt burden alone – just to protect Europe’s banks. Our current crisis cannot be rectified fairly by prioritising expenditure cuts so as to keep taxes among the lowest in the EU.

Taxation

The report says that the social welfare system “is not fit for purpose” and it should be replaced with a basic income system.

Fr Healy explained:

Twenty-first century society needs a radical approach to ensure that everyone can benefit from future economic growth and development. A basic income system should replace social welfare and income tax credits. This would guarantee an income above the poverty line for everyone.

He said that Ireland can increase its tax take and still remain a low-tax economy. “The Government should move toward increasing the total tax take to 34.9 per cent of GDP and do so by broadening the tax base,” Fr Healy added.

Unemployment and Job Creation

The report has found that more than 14 per cent of the labour force is unemployed, with youth unemployment currently at 30 per cent. The report also states that “the market economy is unable to provide anywhere near the number of jobs required to reduce unemployment any time soon”.

The report says that 120,000 people living in poverty in Ireland have jobs, and the Government needs to adopt a strategy of making large-scale job creation interventions into the labour market or else the high levels of unemployment will only be eroded via emigration.

The Government should launch a major investment programme focused on creating employment and prioritise initiatives that strengthen social infrastructure such as the school building programme and social housing programme.

“It remains a major policy failure that Ireland’s level of long-term unemployment has been allowed to increase so rapidly in recent years,” Fr Healy added.

Education

The report has found that a quarter of all male students over the age of 15 do not have the level of literacy needed to participate effectively in society and in future learning.

It recommends that the Government should introduce a system in which fees are paid by all participants in third-level education.

Migration

Emigration of Irish nationals has tripled since 2008, says the report.

40,200 Irish people have left the country in the past 12 months. Between April 2009 and April 2010, an estimated 27,000 people also left the country.

Fr Healy said that the austerity programme “is contributing to Ireland’s loss of young people” and that the implications of this are stark, as the loss “will pose significant problems for Ireland’s economic recovery”.

The plans of the Minister for Justice to offer residency visas in return for investment in Irish bonds or Irish companies or in Irish property are problematic. The inducement of residency in return for cash investment sends out the wrong message about Irish residency.

Housing

Fr Healy stated that Ireland has approximately 100,000 households on waiting lists for social housing and “no credible plans to address this issue on any scale”.

Almost a quarter of all households on waiting lists have been more than four years waiting for social housing. The report says it is important that the Government ensures prompt delivery and adequate resources to alternatives, such as the Rental Accommodation Scheme.

Fr Healy concluded:

The primacy given to the market by so many politicians, analysts, policy makers and commentators has led to many people feeling that their views are ignored or patronised. The market will not solve all society’s problem. Problem solving and shaping a new future for Ireland requires participation of all people in society.

To access the Social Justice Ireland Socio-Economic Review 2012 in full, go to www.socialjustice.ie

Read: How has the Government REALLY done in its first year? This is how>

Read: Disposable income falls and risk of poverty rises: CSO>

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