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16% of Irish adults living in poverty are employed

By Sarah Mac Donald - 30 June, 2014

Numbers living in poverty have increased by 120,000 since beginning of the recession, Social Justice Ireland highlights.

Working PoorSocial Justice Ireland has revealed that 16 percent of adults living in poverty are employed.

In a statement on Monday, the think tank said this 16 percent constitutes the working poor.

The justice advocacy organisation also highlighted that the numbers living in poverty have increased by 120,000 since beginning of the recession.

The top ten percent of households receives 24 percent of total disposable income while the bottom ten percent of households only receives 3 percent.

Almost one in five children live in households with incomes below the poverty line.

“These figures show a profound failure on the part of Government to protect the vulnerable during the crisis,” Dr Seán Healy, Director of Social Justice Ireland, said at the publication of Social Justice Ireland‘s latest Policy Briefing, entitled ‘Poverty and Income Distribution’.

The Marist priest said that there are more than 750,000 people living in poverty in Ireland and he described this as “a major concern.”

He warned that some 58 percent of those in poverty are not connected to the labour market; they are people who are retired, students, people in caring roles or people who are ill or people with a disability.”

“It is important to note that social welfare is of critical importance in addressing poverty. Without social welfare payments more than half of Ireland’s population would be living in poverty; such an underlying poverty rate suggests a deeply unequal distribution of income,” Fr Healy said.

The policy briefing outlines the problem of income inequality in Ireland.

Overall the share of the top 10 percent is more than 8 times the share of the bottom 10 percent.

The richest 10 percent of households received 24 percent of the total disposable income while the poorest 10 percent of households received just 3 percent.

“If Government wishes to address and close these income divides future policy must prioritise those at the bottom of the income distribution,” Dr Healy warned.

“These policies must be designed to address the wide variety of households and adults in poverty”.

“Government could address part of the working poor problem immediately. By making tax credits refundable Government would improve the living standards of a substantial number of people in Ireland and make Ireland’s tax system fairer.”

This is one of Social Justice Ireland’s proposals for Budget 2015.

Dr Healy explained that the value of core social welfare payments has been eroded by inflation increases since 2010.

Social Justice Ireland is proposing a €5 increase in core weekly social welfare payments in Budget 2015 to go some way towards addressing this deficit in Budget 2015.

The Briefing sets out policy proposals for addressing income inequality and reducing poverty rates.

These include:
* Acknowledge that Ireland has an on-going poverty problem.

* Adopt targets aimed at reducing poverty among particular vulnerable groups such as children, lone parents, jobless households, people with a disability and those in social rented housing.

* Examine and support viable, alternative policy options aimed at giving priority to protecting vulnerable sectors of society.

* Carry out in-depth social impact assessments prior to implementing proposed policy initiatives that impact on the income and public services that many low income households depend on. This should include the poverty-proofing of all public policy initiatives.

* Provide substantial new measures to address long-term unemployment. This should include programmes aimed at re-training and re-skilling those at highest risk.

* Recognise the problem of the ‘working poor’. Make tax credits refundable to address the situation of households in poverty which are headed by a person with a job.

* Introduce a cost of disability allowance to address the poverty and social exclusion of people with a disability.

* Recognise the reality of poverty among migrants and adopt policies to assist this group. In addressing this issue also reform and increase the ‘direct provision’ allowances paid to asylum seekers.

* Accept that persistent poverty should be used as the primary indicator of poverty measurement and assist the CSO in allocating sufficient resources to collect this data.

* Move towards introducing a basic income system. This approach has the capacity to ensure all members of society have sufficient income to live life with dignity.

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