Ireland urged to do more for its vulnerable population

German survey of social justice in Europe ranks Ireland 18th out of 28 countries

Of six social issues under investigation, Ireland performed particularly poorly on poverty prevention, coming in 21st in a 28-country comparison. Photograph: Getty Images

Of six social issues under investigation, Ireland performed particularly poorly on poverty prevention, coming in 21st in a 28-country comparison. Photograph: Getty Images

 

A leading German policy foundation has called on Ireland to do more to boost opportunities for its vulnerable population instead of retaining a narrow focus on economic growth. In a survey of social justice in Europe, Germany’s Bertelsmann Foundation ranked Ireland 18th among the EU 28 members, below Poland and Slovakia.

The foundation cited Ireland as an example of how high GDP per capita did not translate automatically into social justice for the population. “Ireland has a similarly high GDP per capita to Sweden, but ranks considerably below average when it comes to social justice and counts as one of the biggest losers in the country comparison,” the report noted.

Ireland would do well to concentrate efforts in coming years “not only on returning to a stable path of growth, but also on improving participation opportunities for a broader portion of the population”.

The report noted “significant deterioration” in Ireland, “where the crisis has left its mark in the social sphere”. Of six social issues under investigation, Ireland performed particularly poorly on poverty prevention, coming in 21st in a 28-country comparison. However, it noted a “nearly balanced” ratio between employment rates among native Irish and foreign-born population.

The researchers put Ireland and its Equality Authority at the top of the EU anti-discrimination ranking, joint with the Netherlands and Sweden.

In a social index ranking compiled by Bertelsmann Foundation researchers, Sweden comes out on top with a result of 7.48 followed closely by Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands. The UK is ranked 13, behind France. Below the EU average of 5.6, Ireland comes in at 5.1, just ahead of Cyprus, Portugal and Spain.

The report’s authors said that after the crisis, Europe had made progress in economic stabilisation but had experienced a simultaneous decline in social justice. Large gaps had opened up between northern and southern Europe and between the generations, with younger people harder hit by social injustice than older generations.

“Should the social imbalance last for long or increase even more, the future of the European integration project will be threatened,” warned Dr Jörg Dräger, member of the Bertelsmann Foundation’s executive board.

The social justice index was compiled from 27 quantitative and eight qualitative indicators derived from Eurostat and the EU statistics. Researchers defined social justice as the aim of realising equal opportunities and life chances which “depends less on compensating for exclusion than it does on investing in inclusion”.