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Posts in the "Inequality" category

We need a change of course and we need it now

Posted on June 27, 2013 by Tom Healy

Tom Healy, Director NERI - Tom Healy, Director NERI
Tom Healy, Director NERI


While caution is always advisable in examining the latest quarterly data, the release by the Central Statistics Office of the latest quarterly national accounts was something of a wake-up call to those eager for news of a recovery. The Republic of Ireland is in a deep stagnation. The downturn has lasted longer than any period of recession since the 1950s, here. A further contraction in personal consumption and investment in the first quarter of this year confirms a downward trend apparent in the second half of last year. This is disappointing but hardly surprising given the impact of austerity abroad and at home.

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Permanent link | Categories: Government SpendingInequalityInvestmentMacroeconomicsTaxation

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

Posted on May 08, 2013 by Micheál Collins

16% of the Irish population lives on an income which is less than the official poverty line - about €210 per adult per week. Given a population of approximately 4.58 million people this implies that almost 730,000 live at risk of poverty.


In the latest edition of the NERI's Quarterly Economic Facts document, indicator 5.3 examines the composition of those living below the poverty line in Ireland. Of all the workers in the Republic of Ireland, 6.5% are 'working poor'. When poverty among those aged 16 years and above is decomposed by principle economic status (the main thing that people do), those at work (the working poor) represent 14.2% of all those adults at risk of poverty.

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Permanent link | Categories: IncomeInequalityJobs

Where do we go from here?

Posted on April 29, 2013 by Tom Healy

Tom Healy, Director NERI - Tom Healy, Director NERI
Tom Healy, Director NERI

Public debate about matters of public concern in Ireland has been characterised in a number of ways. I suggest that the following traits may be stronger than elsewhere in the world and could reflect deep and enduring historical factors:

  1. There is a disproportionate emphasis on 'survival' with the consequence of a great focus on the short-term over the long-term;
  2. Intellectual discourse about values, evidence and philosophy is not given the space and priority it deserves (in short there is a certain anti-intellectualism); and
  3. Fatalism dominates the perceived choices and options.

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Permanent link | Categories: InequalityMacroeconomicsTaxation

How much income do you need in retirement?

Posted on April 23, 2013 by Micheál Collins

Pensions and pension's policy are back on the agenda following the recent release of the OECD report on the Irish pensions system. Details and the document are here: http://www.welfare.ie/en/pressoffice/Pages/pr220413.aspx


At the core of much discussion on pension issues is the question of what is an adequate income in retirement. In general the answer to this question tends to be inflated, driven by a pensions industry that wants more investments and inflated expectations of likely expenditure costs in retirement by workers.


In retirement, the expenditure of many, if not most, workers falls significantly as mortgages have been paid off, children have been reared and typically pensioner's health is good. For those who rent housing costs do remain, and for home owners property taxes and maintenance costs persist.

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Permanent link | Categories: IncomeInequality

Women in the Economy and Labour Market

Posted on March 11, 2013 by Micheál Collins

Last week, on International Women's Day, I spoke at the ICTU joint women's committee seminar on the topic of 'Women in the Economy and the Labour Market'. My paper highlighted the latest data on the current challenges facing women, North and South, as they participate in the economy, enter or leave the labour market and cope with the impacts of the recession.


While I pointed at a number of potential remedies to the persistent gender wage gap and low participation rates among Irish women, the subsequent session addresses some of the potential solutions in more detail. Listening to the various inputs into that session, I thought there would be merit in linking it to some of the recent relevant NERI research and outputs. These include:

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Permanent link | Categories: GenderIncomeInequality

Still a high income country – despite the recession

Posted on March 11, 2013 by Micheál Collins

Indicator 4.1 from the NERI's latest Quarterly Economics Facts (QEF) document shows that despite the financial crisis, the Republic of Ireland's income per capita remains high. The latest data, for 2011, show that Ireland's average income of €35,400 is the sixth highest in the EU. The figure is calculated by dividing GDP by the population.


Using Gross National Product (GNP), a measure which somewhat takes account of the income earned in Ireland and subsequently repatriated by multinational companies, the CSO reported Ireland's GNP per capita for 2011 as €28,325 (equivalent to the tenth highest in the EU-27). In the UK GDP per capita in 2011 was equivalent to €27,900. There are no GDP figures available for Northern Ireland.

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Permanent link | Categories: IncomeInequality

Investing in our Children

Posted on March 05, 2013 by Micheál Collins

Children are central to the long-term success of our society and economy; of course they are a lot more than that. However, taking the narrow focus of economic policy and long-term investments, all the evidence points towards the merit of investing in high quality professionally provided education and care for our children.


When it comes to the model we should adopt, a number of Scandinavian countries lead the way. They provide comprehensive systems of maternity, paternity and parental leave; high quality state supported childcare and a comprehensive after-school system. This model was explored at an event this week organised by Barnardos, The National Women's Council, OPEN and Start Strong.

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Permanent link | Categories: InequalityInvestment

Is a ‘living wage’ such a mad idea?

Posted on February 12, 2013 by Micheál Collins

Over recent years I have been involved in publishing a number of research papers and reports on issues related to low income in Ireland (see a list here). Among these, work with the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice focused on establishing the cost of a minimum essential standard of living in Ireland and subsequently estimating the income required to experience this. Outside Ireland, most particularly in the UK, research around minimum living standards has spawned further research into the concept of a living wage. Such a wage is taken to be an hourly wage rate sufficient to ensure that an employee earns enough to have a decent standard of living.

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Permanent link | Categories: GenderIncomeInequalityJobs

Wealth in Ireland: stable but what of its distribution?

Posted on February 11, 2013 by Micheál Collins

Indicator 4.4 from the NERI's latest Quarterly Economics Facts (QEF) document shows that despite the financial crisis, net financial wealth per person has been remarkably stable across Europe. In Ireland, the average resident possessed €26,507 of financial wealth (such as cash, bank deposits, or shares) in 2011 - the latest year where comparable EU wide data is available. This figure does not include non-financial wealth such as property. It should be noted that these are net average figures, and consequently they give no indication as to the severe financial strain under which many households are suffering. Indeed, despite a dearth in the provision of distribution data for wealth in Ireland, it is likely that wealth is at least as unequally distributed as income (see indicator 4.2a in the latest QEF).

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Permanent link | Categories: IncomeInequality

Income and Earnings: an insight

Posted on February 06, 2013 by Micheál Collins

Discussion on various policy options and decisions by Government is often framed in the context of the income distribution and the impact on families and individuals above and below certain income thresholds. Whether it is tax increases, welfare reductions, wage changes or the new property tax, political and media comment often refers to high and low income families, those earning more than €50,000 or €100,000 etc. Unfortunately, much of this comment tends to be distant from the reality of the income distribution in Ireland - something often cited but much misunderstood.

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Permanent link | Categories: IncomeInequality

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