The beginning of the unwinding of a European tragedy?

Posted on January 26, 2015 by Tom Healy

Tom Healy, Director NERI

While the results of the general election in Greece are not known at the time of writing this Blog, it is clear that the tectonic plates of political affiliation and sentiment are shifting dramatically almost everywhere. The unthinkable suddenly becomes thinkable and the thinkable becomes irrelevant. Where market sentiment rules popular sentiment offers a counter weight.  Echoes of this are evident even in Ireland where, following 7 years of unrelenting austerity and pressure on living standards, employment and public services, popular sentiment is in the ascendancy.

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Posted in: Macroeconomics

Pensioners and the Income Distribution

Posted on January 20, 2015 by Micheál Collins

Pensioners (those aged 65 years and above) comprise almost 12% of the population of the Republic of Ireland. However, they are far from a homogeneous group, differing by health, wealth, income and marital status among other things. A new NERI Research inBrief, examines pensioners under just one of these headings – income.

The research finds that, for the most part, pensioners sit in the middle of the income distribution (above the bottom 20% but below the top 40%). Overall, 60% of pensioners are in the bottom half of the income distribution while 40% are in the top half.

It is useful to know where pensioners are in the income distribution given considerations of policy changes to areas such as taxes, pensions and free or subsidised public services.

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Posted in: IncomeInequality

Did austerity work?

Posted on January 18, 2015 by Tom Healy

Tom Healy, Director NERI

Fiscal austerity is the topic of a conference being held today in Dublin. The question is asked: did austerity work in Ireland? A key consideration is not what might have happened if the fiscal consolidation had not been done, but, if it had been done differently with no cuts to public capital investment, minimal cuts to current spending and significant increases to revenue especially that related to income from capital.

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Posted in: Government SpendingMacroeconomicsTaxation

NERI Seminar: Outsourcing in the Public Sector

Posted on January 15, 2015 by Daragh McCarthy

Publication cover - Outsourcing in the public sector NERI WP 22

Outsourcing in the public sector was the topic of the first NERI seminar of the new year. Public sector outsourcing is the process of contracting out a service or a function to another body, such as street cleaning or internal IT services. While outsourcing is frequently understood to mean contracting out to the private sector, services and functions can also be outsourced from one public body to another public body or to a non-profit making organisation.

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Posted in: JobsWages

Working and living below the poverty line: ‘The Working Poor’

Posted on January 13, 2015 by Micheál Collins

2015 looks set to be a year when those at the bottom of the earnings distribution receive increased attention. Government will shortly establish a low pay commission which will (among other things) review the minimum wage. Later this month the CSO will provide new data on incomes and earnings (SILC) and during the summer the Living Wage technical group will update its estimate of the hourly earnings required to provide a basic, yet decent, standard of living for a full-time worker. No doubt those described as the ‘working poor’ will be frequently mentioned.

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Posted in: IncomeInequalityJobsLabour costsLiving wageWages

Health crisis, taxation and wage inequality - is there a link?

Posted on January 10, 2015 by Tom Healy

Tom Healy, Director NERI

Overcrowded A&E, lack of nursing home places, seasonal factors, under-investment in community health, emergencies in public mental health services, large classes, limited public childcare supports, limited public transport, rural areas under pressure, homelessness growing visibly on the streets every night, a direct provision system that will be the subject of high-level apologies in the 2040s…Might there be a link to the taxes we pay (or don’t pay?). Yes, a lot of tax revenue is going to pay off public debts (including private debts that were nationalised). But that is only one part of the story.

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Joining up the dots

Posted on January 02, 2015 by Tom Healy

Tom Healy, Director NERI

As a new year beckons it is time to take stock. Following a winter of civic protests and what is hopefully the beginning of the end of fiscal austerity (for now), hopes have lifted and recovery seems to be around the corner - at least for some. But, nobody can be sure what lies ahead - politically, socially, economically whether here in Ireland or across Europe and the world. The speed at which events can unfold from the Crimea to Greece and from the price of oil to collapse in interest rates on government borrowing. History teaches us that what people most fear very often doesn't happen and the very thing that people didn't see coming happened. The term and concept of 'systemic risk' comes to mind. Others might refer to the internal contradictions of capitalism. If the present course is maintained 2015 should see, in the Republic of Ireland, further increases in employment and output as measured by GDP or GNP.  Yet, the value of wages is still falling and household disposable income is still not rising. The implementation of tax cuts in the coming weeks will be welcomed by many. The arrival of property tax and household water charges will not.  However, it is not clear how the Government will 'pay for the income tax cuts announced in Budget 2015.

If the past is anything to go by, a hallowing out of the income tax base coupled with a downward movement in taxes on capital and corporate profits such as happened over many decades will leave the Republic of Ireland vulnerable to future shocks. Moreover, it is far from clear that the Government has a clearly thought out strategy on how taxes should be reformed and at what level they should be pitched to pay for social goods and services like health, education and affordable homes. Coincidentally there appears to be a pro-cyclical tax-cutting dynamic which has run according to a regular ten-year cycle since the 1970s:

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Some research highlights from 2014

Posted on December 28, 2014 by Tom Healy

Tom Healy, Director NERI

The year draws to a close and a new year begins. The Nevin Economic Research Institute was established in 2012 with the support of 24 trade unions in Ireland. Since its establishment the Institute has published a large number of research working papers and other material which can be viewed on this website. Some of the outputs in the course of this year include:

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Ageing well

Posted on December 19, 2014 by Tom Healy

Tom Healy, Director NERI

Economics may be viewed as a dismal science but what do you make of the following biblical passage: ‘Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away’ (Psalm 90:10). Economists might sense some affinity with the psalmist! 

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Ireland's Income Distribution: recent trends

Posted on December 16, 2014 by Micheál Collins

Judged in an international context, Ireland is a high income country. The 2014 United Nations Human Development Report ranks Ireland as having the 28th highest gross national income per person in the world – with an average income at almost two and a half times the world average. Data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show that average incomes, also measured as gross national income per person, stood at €32,599 in 2013 – a historically high figure, though lower than the peaks achieved in the years immediately before the recent economic recession.

However, while overall averages are interesting, they assume an equal distribution of income across the population. In reality, income is not so evenly spread.

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Posted in: IncomeInequality

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