BY JOHN ELLIS, FINANCIAL ADVISOR
At least 581,000 people are living in poverty in Ireland today of which 164,000 are children. This is according to the latest CSO report; a household survey covering a broad range of issues in relation to income and living conditions.
The increasing number of people experiencing deprivation is a clear sign that despite several years of sustained economic growth, many people’s circumstances have not improved at all. Poverty and social exclusion continue to be put on the back burner by a Government that continues to fail to give poverty reduction the priority it requires, and people deserve.
The Wage Subsidy Schemes and the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (now closed) safeguarded people from the worst of the economic impact of the pandemic. Yet in the long term the economic and social impact will continue to be felt in many homes as the deprivation figures show with over 690,000 people still struggling to achieve a basic standard of living; with four in 10 households reporting difficulties in making ends meet in 2021.
When different household types were analysed almost sixteen per cent of households with one adult and children reported great difficulty in making ends meet. Arrears are a particular challenge for households on low incomes with one in five households not able to make a mortgage or rent payment, and sixteen per cent in arrears with their utility bills in 2021. This is currently exacerbated with the steep increases in the cost of living.
Further cause for concern is the very high poverty rates for those unable to work due to long-standing health problems. This group again have the highest risk of poverty in the State at 39.1%.
The CSO figures show that ‘in-work poverty’ — a technical way of saying approximately 93,000 people who have jobs are not paid enough to achieve a basic standard of living — is 4.4%.
In 2021, 164,000 children, the most vulnerable groups in any society, lived in households that were below the poverty line. One in six children (204,710) was living in households experiencing deprivation.
Social welfare payments down from 27 percentage points to 11.6% play a crucial role in reducing poverty without which almost four in every ten of the Irish population would have been living in poverty. But it’s not enough according to Social Justice Ireland who is calling on the Government to increase core social welfare rates by €10 per week in this year’s budget and commit to benchmarking core social welfare rates to 27.5 per cent of average earnings over two years.
Commenting on the figures, Dr Seán Healy, CEO of Social Justice Ireland, said: “The sheer scale of the numbers of people living in poverty is worrying, particularly when we consider the impact of the Government pandemic income supports in cushioning households from the worst effects of the pandemic.
“The Government has again shown that it has no clear, comprehensive strategy to tackle poverty, social exclusion and vulnerability. Today’s numbers clearly show that Government, to date, has failed to commit to leaving nobody behind.”
The group recommends a number of policy recommendations including, the government must 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. Examine and support viable alternative policy options by carrying out in-depth social impact assessments prior to implementing any policies.
They must support the widespread adoption of the Living Wage so that low paid workers receive an adequate income and can afford a minimum but decent standard of living.
Introduce a cost of disability allowance to address poverty and social exclusion of people with a disability and recognise the reality of poverty among migrants and adopt policies to assist this group.
If not many families will fall further behind the rest of society in the years ahead.