Jack Quann
Jack Quann

10.19 30 Jul 2020


Share this article


Social Justice Ireland has said the Government needs to take several different approaches to tackle poverty and unemployment, not just job creation.

The group is calling for an increase to social welfare rates of €7 in Budget 2021.

Sean Healy, the director of Social Justice Ireland, told Newstalk Breakfast: "There's a situation, quite clear, that Irish people who are unemployed will take a job if there's one available - maybe not everybody, but almost everybody.

"But we have to face up to the fact that the jobs aren't always a solution to unemployment.

"We have over 100,000 people in Ireland who had a job, but they're still living in households that are in poverty.

"In our proposals on Budget 2021, we're recommending that the primary focus of the budget in 2021 - and in 2022 - should be on increasing employment and delivering infrastructure and services, and not on reducing the deficit which is the usual kind of focus.

"And I think Government is actually moving at the moment in that direction, and I would certainly strongly support that".

"It's not a question of either one or the other, we need both: we need a jobs focus, we need to increase the jobs available, we need to improve our infrastructure and services... they're necessary to have a thriving economy, but you also need to eliminate poverty and a first step in that is to increase social welfare rates and benchmark them."

On arguing for the increase, Mr Healy said: "It's needed principally because people on social welfare have fallen behind the rest of society.

"There was no increase in the social welfare rate in the last budget.... that was one of the most disgraceful decision made the last government.

"They've widened the gap between the most vulnerable and the rest of society by giving no increase of any kind to people on welfare.

"But also we need to recognise there's 680,000 people who live in poverty, of whom almost 200,000 are children.

"And we need to see a situation in which the Government is moving towards resolving that issue, reducing those [and] eventually eliminating that - that should be the target.

"By actually increasing it by €7 this year, we're also recommending that it should be €7 a year for the next two years.

"That would bring it up to the benchmark of 27.5% of average earnings, and that was the benchmark that was set way back in 2002 - and was actually achieved in 2007 and maintained for a couple of years after that.

"But it has been allowed to slip in recent years".

'Jobs aren't always a solution to unemployment' - Call for increase to social welfare rates

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

   

Neil McDonnell, CEO of ISME, described arguing the case against increasing social protection as "like being asked to justify kicking cats".

But he said: "Let's be honest about this, and the data was published this week by the former chair of the Fiscal Advisory Council, the largest cause of poverty is living in a low work intensity home.

"We cannot expect the social protection system on its own to keep 600,000 people out of poverty.

"The way you do that is you provide an environment where there are jobs.

"That's a difficult thing to say at a time when our unemployment rate has never been higher, but the fact is we have to get people back to work: that is the greatest protection against people being in poverty".

"As you increase the rate of pay available for not being in unemployment, and unfortunately there's also proof of this from our own past, the disincentive to work in the real economy and the incentive to work in the grey economy increases.

"We can actually show this from the previous time when we hit our record level of employment and the lowest level of unemployment we ever had was back in 2002/2003, when unemployment actually dropped below 4%.

"And at that time we made a great social justice case to increase the level of social protection for unemployment - and interestingly, in pre-Celtic Tiger Ireland or in the middle of it, unemployment rose by 10%".

Mr McDonnell added: "Let's face the other sad fact, that the biggest deficit this State has isn't the national debt of €205bn - which'll be €240bn by the end of the year - it's the social protection system, which has an unfunded liability north of €330bn.

"So by all means, anyone who wants to argue for an increase in social protection payments make that argument.

"But please be honest and man enough to come out and say who's going to pay for it.

"Because at the moment, the solution is just pass the payment to our children in increased national debt".

Main image: People queue outside social welfare offices in Dublin city in 2009. Picture by: Photocall Ireland

Share this article


Read more about

Budget Budget 2021 ISME Increase Jobs Jobs Creation National Debt Neil McDonnell Newstalk Breakfast Social Justice Ireland Social Wefare Unemployment

Most Popular

Live: Title

Now playing

00:00:00 / 00:00:00
Added to queue
Removed from queue

On Air

Share

Share


Up next

Episode title
Show
Duration

You currently have no podcasts in your queue.

Go to podcasts

On Air

Newstalk Breakfast

Newstalk Breakfast

07:00-09:00

Share

Up next

THE PAT KENNY SHOW

THE PAT KENNY SHOW

09:00-12:00

Share

LUNCHTIME LIVE

LUNCHTIME LIVE

12:00-14:00

Share

MONCRIEFF

MONCRIEFF

14:00-16:00

Share

THE HARD SHOULDER

THE HARD SHOULDER

16:00-19:00

Share

OFF THE BALL

OFF THE BALL

19:00-22:00

Share

THE TOM DUNNE SHOW

THE TOM DUNNE SHOW

22:00-00:00

Share

BEST OF NEWSTALK

BEST OF NEWSTALK

00:00-06:00

Share

BREAKFAST BRIEFING

BREAKFAST BRIEFING

06:00-06:30

Share

BREAKFAST BUSINESS

BREAKFAST BUSINESS

06:30-07:00

Share

NEWSTALK BREAKFAST

NEWSTALK BREAKFAST

07:00-09:00

Share

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

Share on