'Over 700,000' now living in poverty

Tue, Apr 10, 2012, 01:00

Some 706,000 people, including 200,00 children, are living in poverty in Ireland which is an increase of 92,000 in two years, according to a new report published today.

The Shaping Ireland’s Future report by Social Justice Ireland (SJI) said the Government needs to acknowledge Ireland’s poverty problem and called for an overhaul of social welfare saying the current system is not “fit for purpose”.

It revealed the poorest 10 per cent of households have an average disposable income of €210 a week, compared to an average of €2,276 a week for the richest 10 per cent.

It recommended policy makers introduce a basic income system to replace social welfare and income tax credits.

“By making tax credits refundable, almost 113,300 low-income individuals would receive a refund and would see their disposable income increase as a result of the proposal.

“In practice a basic income recognises the right of every person to a share of the resources of society,” the report added.

The report noted the Government’s insistence on keeping Ireland’s total tax-take among the lowest in the EU has placed the exchequer in a “very precarious position and put massive pressure on public services and infrastructure”.

SJI director Fr Sean Healy said the total tax-take needed to rise from just under 30 per cent of GDP to 34.9 per cent by broadening the tax base. He said the country could make this change and still remain a low-tax economy.

He said the tax breaks should be eliminated to improve fairness in the system as the “major beneficiaries of most tax breaks are those on the highest incomes”.

With some 120,000 people who live in poverty at work the report said being employed is not a guarantee of living in a poverty-free household.

“The Government needs to adopt a strategy of making large scale job-creation interventions into the labour market,” Fr Healy said to help combat the problem of 30 per cent youth and 14 per cent total unemployment.

Finally it said emigration of Irish nationals had tripled since 2008 with 40,200 people, particularly young Irish, leaving the country in the past 12 months.

“The austerity programme is contributing to Ireland’s loss of young people, the implications of which are stark as this loss will pose significant problems for economic recovery.”

“The emigration ‘brain drain’ which in some quarters is being heralded perversely as a ‘safety valve’ is in fact a serious problem for Ireland and may well lead to a skills deficit in the long-term,” Fr Healy added.