The third annual NERI labour market conference was held on 1 May in Riddel Hall, Queen's University Belfast. The event was held in conjunction with the Queen's Management School and featured presentations on a wide range of areas. Details on the topics covered, including links to the slides, are available below. All at the NERI would like to thank everyone who attended the conference, particularly those who gave a presentation. The conference will be held south of the border next year and we will keep you up to date with the arrangements.
Slides from a number of presentations are exluded at the presenters' request.
The current focus on low pay and precarious work practices has set the scene for the work of the recently formed Low Pay Commission in the Republic of Ireland. One aspect of their work will be to look at the number of individuals trapped in low pay, many of whom are dependent on the social protection system to underpin their ability to make ends meet.
‘These things we hold to be self-evident …. ‘ is a line taken from the 1776 USA Declaration of Independence. Given the emerging debate - such as it is – in the Republic of Ireland on matters to do with taxation, social spending and related areas it would seem that the following ten canonical statements are universally believed in, rarely contested and frequently asserted:
Indicator 4.1 from the NERI’s latest Quarterly Economics Facts (QEF) document shows that despite the elongated economic crisis, the Republic of Ireland’s income per capita remains high. The latest data, for 2013, show that Ireland’s average income of €35,600 is the sixth highest in the EU. The figure is calculated by dividing GDP by the population. Looked at over time, the figures for the Republic of Ireland in 2013 are similar to those recorded in 2004/2005 - a few years before the economic peak and subsequent crash.
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.
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).
Despite its prominence in various public policy discussions over recent years, detailed information on wealth in Ireland has been sparse. For the most part discussion on the distribution of wealth, and concepts such as a wealth tax, were based on hunches and guestimates or assumptions that the wealth distribution must have in some way resembled the income distribution (at least as unequal and probably worse).
As the economic recovery takes root, there are welcome improvements in the levels of employment and continued decreases in unemployment. Looking across 2015, the latest NERI projections (December 2014) suggest employment growth of 2.1% this year with unemployment falling to 10.4%.
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.