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

The Wages Elephant is in the Domestic Parlour

Posted on December 12, 2014 by Tom Healy

Tom Healy, Director NERI

Flat lining of GDP, water charges in the Republic, off and on balance sheets, Stormont talks stalling, tax cuts, USC, corporate taxes, double-Irish, knowledge boxes, regressive budgets, more tax cuts and Christmas is approaching fast. What’s missing from public discourse? You would never guess – wages. Yet, it is critical to economic recovery and medium-term social development. This Blog reviews the overall trends from the latest data on wages in both parts of Ireland. 

Wages falling in nominal and real terms in the Republic of Ireland

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Posted in: Wages

NERI Seminar: Spatial Justice and Lessons from the Crisis

Posted on December 11, 2014 by Daragh McCarthy

Stand Logo

The latest NERI seminar, Some Lessons from the Crisis: Spatial Justice, Uneven Development and Future Choices, was held yesterday in the INTO Learning Centre. Gerry Kearns (professor of geography, Maynooth University) and David Meredith (senior research officer, Teagasc) outlined a concern that, as a society, we are lying the foundations for a return to a pro-cyclical economic merry-go-round resulting in further concentration of capital, social injustices and uneven spatial development. They highlighted the danger that despite the hardship and sacrifices that we ‘wasted a serious crisis’ (Rahm Emanuel).

In developing these ideas, the talk provided an overview of spatial changes in the composition of the labour force and youth migration patterns. This draws attention to the presence of long run trends towards economic agglomeration within some regions, weakening of others and the ultimate futility of repeating historical initiatives in the hope that this time the outcome will somehow be different.

The seminar drew on the presenters' recent book on the Irish Crisis: Spatial Justice and the Irish Crisis .

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Posted in: InequalityInvestmentJobsMacroeconomics

Imagining a different society

Posted on December 05, 2014 by Tom Healy

Tom Healy, Director NERI

Recent debates about politics, water charges, tax cuts and austerity have focussed on the short-term and how we can get out of the economic slump. This is understandable. Now we need a conversation in Ireland about our long-term goal and how the policies and goals of the immediate months ahead relate to our long-term objectives.

To avoid the terrible mistakes of the past we need to learn how to do things differently. This impacts on economic policy in areas such as inequality, incomes, financial regulation, industrial democracy and the growth of Irish owned enterprises in exports markets.  Some of these fundamental goals will take many decades to fully realise. But the work begins here.

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UK recovery still unbalanced and unstable

Posted on December 03, 2014 by Paul Mac Flynn


Chancellor George Osborne's Autumn Statement contained few new announcements and some decidedly grim long-term trends for the UK economy. There were further details given on pre-announced infrastructural spending on house building, roads and rail in addition to earmarked funding for established science and research. The chancellor also outlined a major reform to the way stamp duty is levied in the United Kingdom, removing the "cliff edge" that exists as the price of a property moves between established bands. While reform of this tax is welcome, it could be perceived as a further attempt to boost house prices and activity in teh market. It is estimated that the cost of this policy will be in the region of £800m annually. Air passenger duty was also reduced along with a continuing freeze in fuel duty. There were small uprates to the personal tax allowance and the higher rate band.

The Office for Budget Responsibility's forecasts were also published which confirmed that the UK's GDP would grow by 3% IN 2014. While the OBR figures for 2014 and 2015 have been upgraded since the Budget, the figures for the years 2016-18 have been downgraded. The downward revision casts uncertainty over the future of the UK economy and the sustainability of its current growth path. While government borrowing will fall this year, the deficit is forecast to be higher than at the time of the Budget owing to reduced revenues. In particular the fall-off in income tax revenues raises serious concerns about the growth of low-paid employment across the United Kingdom. On wages, the OBR forecast that they will not return to their pre-crisis levels in the next five years. Additionally the government's spending plans will see spending frozen in 2019-20 indicating real terms cuts for the entire of the next Parliament.

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Posted in: Government SpendingMacroeconomicsNorthern Ireland TaxationWages

Income: The Gender Divide

Posted on December 02, 2014 by Micheál Collins

There are many measures examining differences in various socio-economic characteristics among men and women. In general, women are better educated, healthier, live longer but earn less – factors which in themselves point towards gaps in societal equality for both sexes.

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Posted in: GenderIncomeInequality

Things you always wanted to know about Northern Ireland public finances (Part 2)

Posted on November 28, 2014 by Tom Healy

Tom Healy, Director NERI

In a previous Blog ‘Things you always wanted to know about public finances in Northern Ireland but were afraid to ask’ (Part 1) I outlined the main components of public spending and receipts. The arrangements for funding and how the UK Government allocates funds are complex.  Three factors have recently pushed the issue of public funding in Northern Ireland to the fore:

  1. Continuing pressure on public spending at UK level with further austerity signalled by all main political parties in the next Parliament (following May 2015).
  2. Controversy over UK Welfare Reform (see previous blog here)
  3. On-going debate about devolution including powers to vary taxes in Scotland, Northern Ireland and even large urban areas in the UK (earlier last week the Smith Commission reported on proposals for further Scottish independence).

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Posted in: Government SpendingNorthern Ireland Taxation

A roof over your head

Posted on November 22, 2014 by Tom Healy

Tom Healy, Director NERI

A roof over your head is a fundamental human need and right. Purchasing or renting a place to live typically takes a big chunk of lifetime earnings or income. It is the biggest single cost facing most workers or households.  Recent decades have seen a significant change in the way people live, work and save over a lifetime.  Ireland and the UK tend to have higher shares of home ownership compared to many European countries and this has not changed over time. 

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Posted in: Government SpendingInvestment

NERI Seminar: Devolution in the United Kingdom Post Scottish Referendum

Posted on November 19, 2014 by Daragh McCarthy

NERI seminar: prospects post Scottish referendum on independence

In the aftermath of the Scottish Independence referendum, a broader discussion has begun about the future of economic governance in the United Kingdom. If further welfare and tax raising are to be devolved to Holyrood, what could this mean for the administrations in Belfast and Cardiff? What could this mean for the proposed devolution of corporation tax to Northern Ireland? How would further devolution to city regions in England affect overall UK fiscal policy?

Yesterday's NERI seminar examined some of these issues with Stephen Boyd, Assistant Secretary at the Scottish Trades Union Congress, providing an overview of the central issues in the recent Scottish referendum on independence and looking at proposals for further devolution in Scotland.

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Posted in: Northern Ireland

Things you always wanted to know about public finances in Northern Ireland but were afraid to ask (Part 1)

Posted on November 15, 2014 by Tom Healy

Tom Healy, Director NERI

Fiscal austerity has dominated public discourse across Europe for more than half a decade. The UK and Northern Ireland has been no exception. Recent weeks have seen growing controversy and political tension as public spending cuts imposed by the UK government continue to impact on the local provision of public services and incomes.

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Posted in: Government SpendingInvestmentNorthern Ireland Taxation

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