Using Minimum Incomes Research for Policy

Posted on November 28, 2012 by Micheál Collins

Last week I and my fellow researchers on the recent Minimum Income Standards work spoke at an Irish Social Policy Association (ISPA) event on the topic of using minimum incomes for policy analysis and policy planning. In my section of the seminar I highlighted six areas where this research is useful and I have turned these points into a set of slides which are available on the NERI website.

The six areas I highlighted are:

  • Using minimum standards research to assess changes to benefits, taxes and prices. Something very relevant in the context of Budget 2013. The data allows us to capture both direct (wages, transfers etc) and indirect (public service changes) and assess how these impact on households.
  • Using minimum standards research to examine the challenges for low earning household to take-up or retain work. This point cited to recent NERI working paper on 'The Costs of Work'.
  • Using minimum standards research to examine the cost of rearing a child in Ireland. Such costs are experiences by all households with children but are most noticeable for those at the bottom of the income distribution given their size relative to the income of those low-earning and working households. The data also highlight that the cost of a child varies across childhood. This point cited the recent VPSJ publication on 'The Cost of a Child'.
  • Using minimum standards research to identify the amount of retention money households who are having their debt restructured should be able to retain. This is a point relevant to the implementation of the various elements of the recent Insolvency legislation. Identifying how much a household needs to live on and how much it can repay is a crucial part of successfully implementing this legislation and the minimum income research offers detailed insights into these questions. It is of note that Bank of Ireland, AIB and MABS are already using this research as the basis of their assessments of retention money.
  • Using minimum standards research to examine the concept of 'a living wage'. This links to interesting developments in the UK which have used minimum income research as the basis for establishing 'a living wage' amount in London and other UK cities. Some further research is planned in this area in Ireland over 2013.
  • Using minimum standards research to consider the concept of 'a maximum income'. If this research tells us how much we need for individuals to have a minimum standard of living, then maybe it provides some insight into how much a maximum income should be - an amount that allows a very comfortable and secure lifestyle. There is no easy answer to this question, but multiples of the minimum offer a good starting point.

Slides with some details of these points are available here.

Relevant links to this research are:

  • The Minimum Income Standards publication is available here.
  • The Cost of Work paper is available here.
  • The Cost of a Child report is available here.
  • The 2012 VPSJ update of the MIS figures is available here.
  • The online MIS calculator is available here.


Posted in: IncomeInequality

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