We never had it so good?

Posted on March 21, 2015 by Tom Healy

Tom Healy, Director NERI

Some years ago, during the Roaring Celtic Tiger period, I had occasion to attend a conference which treated the idea and measurement of Human Well-Being. Speaking to a former Taoiseach who had just joined the proceedings, I informed him that the participants were not entirely sure if life was getting better or worse. He responded by declaring: ‘It’s both’. Hint: he was an economist. 

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It's all about choices

Posted on March 14, 2015 by Tom Healy

Tom Healy, Director NERI

With a general election in the Republic of Ireland looming sometime between now and this time next year it is timely to consider what choices and policy options are appropriate. The Nevin Economic Research Institute is not associated with any political party or platform. Our job is to undertake economic research informed by the evidence. However, we are interested in how economic policy will evolve in the coming years and how it can contribute to a different vision and model for Ireland in the long-term. To that end, this blog offers some ideas, questions and suggestions – written as always in a personal capacity - in regards to how a new Government or programme of government could be shaped in a way that moves this part of Ireland in the correct direction (I almost wrote ‘right direction’!). It focuses on economic issues only. 

Many of the suggestions are general in nature but sufficiently focused as to identify the main outlines of a possible ‘left alternative’ policy approach. Irish politics is reflecting European developments. Old allegiances are breaking down and new movements and parties are emerging across Europe (and not always in a desirable way).

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Employment in the public sector

Posted on March 12, 2015 by Daragh McCarthy

As shown in the latest edition of the Quarterly Economic Facts , the public sector in the Republic of Ireland accounts for 18.4 per cent of total employment—not far from the average level across OECD countries. The public sector employees make up 20 per cent of the total number of people working in the Untied Kingdom; however, public sector workers in Northern Ireland represent 31 per cent of total employment (ONS, 2014).

Numbers Employed in the Wide Public Sector

Source: OECD Government at a Glance 2013

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Posted in: Government SpendingJobs

From Strabane to Strangford Lough

Posted on March 07, 2015 by Tom Healy

Tom Healy, Director NERI

Northern Ireland rests on a very precarious political balance involving internal community relations, external relationships, social well-being and economic progress. In terms of overall size of the economy, including public spending, it accounts for a relatively small slice of the total UK picture. Yet, as a regional economy and polity it is highly vulnerable to fiscal, political and economic trends not only in the UK as a whole but in Europe and the world.

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Posted in: Government SpendingInvestmentNorthern Ireland Taxation

NERI Seminar: Deprivation on the Island of Ireland

Posted on March 06, 2015 by Daragh McCarthy

Trutz Haase

Trutz Haase was the speaker at the most recent NERI seminar on deprivation on the island of Ireland. Over the course of the presentation, Trutz provided an overview of the Irish deprivation indices, covering the conceptual underpinnings of the 2011 Pobal Haase-Pratschke (HP) Deprivation Index for Small Areas. He then disucssed the relevance of deprivation indices in researching the effects of social class on key socio-economic outcomes (particularly health), and its practical application in targeting government expenditure to areas of need.


Haase, Trutz and Pratschke Jonathan (2012)  "A longitudinal study of area-level deprivation in Ireland, 1991–2011Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design 2014, volume 41

Posted in: Inequality

Gender equality: Ireland and the EU

Posted on March 06, 2015 by Micheál Collins


Sunday marks International Women’s day, an opportune time to reflect on gender equality issues and the latest data on this topic.

Last July the CSO issued their annual ‘Women and Men in Ireland’ report and included for the first time a new index summarising gender equality in Ireland and comparing this to levels across the EU.

The index, compiled by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), is informative. It ranges from 1, indicating total inequality, to 100, indicating complete gender equality.

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Posted in: Gender

Incomes still 14% below pre-crisis levels

Posted on March 05, 2015 by Micheál Collins

Yesterday, the UK think-tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies issued a report noting that average UK household incomes had returned to around their pre-recession level after a “historically slow recovery”.

The latest data on Irish income levels tell a different story.

Using data from the CSO’s SILC survey, we can track average and median household incomes back to 2005 (see chart). On the basis of the latest data (for 2013 and released in January 2015) the median (middle) household gross income is 14% below its 2007 level. The average gross household income is 9.2% below. Using a measure of disposable income (after taxes and transfers) median incomes levels are 13% below their 2007 levels and mean incomes are 14.4% below.


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Posted in: Income

A wage recovery

Posted on February 27, 2015 by Tom Healy

Tom Healy, Director NERI

In the last year the Central Bank has urged trade unions to raise their wage demands. What? Yes it did happen. But not here. The German Central Bank, the Bundesbank, urged German trade unions to up their wage demands – at least above the rate of inflation (the message was relayed through Jens Ulbrich the Bundesbank chief economist at the Bank). Somehow, it is unlikely that Dame Street (or Merrion Street) will be issuing similar advice in the Republic of Ireland. As matters stand, real wages have been in free fall since 2009 – compounding a fall in levels of consumer demand. Last week’s news of a modest recovery in average weekly earnings is welcome (Chart 1).

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Posted in: IncomeLabour costsWages

Low Pay and the Living Wage

Posted on February 27, 2015 by Micheál Collins

Micheal Collins profile

At a meeting earlier this week, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation focused on the topic of Low Pay and the Living Wage.

In a contribution to the committee, I first outlined some context for their examination of these issues, before going into more detail on the concept of a Living Wage.

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Posted in: IncomeJobsLabour costsLiving wageWages

Government spending and revenue in the Republic of Ireland

Posted on February 26, 2015 by Tom McDonnell

Tom McDonnell profile

The NERI’s Quarterly Economic Facts contains a range of indicators on the public finances. One of these indicators compares levels of government revenue and public spending in the Republic of Ireland with that of other European Union economies. The basic method of comparison is to measure total government revenue and total public spending as percentages of GDP. Total general government revenue is largely obtained from taxes and social security contributions but also includes other receipts of public authorities. The largest items of public spending by function are social protection measures (mainly social transfers), followed by spending on health and then spending on education.

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Posted in: Government SpendingMacroeconomicsTaxation

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