Income inequality will worsen with Budget 2011

Income, access to an adequate income and income equality emerge from the four year National Recovery Plan as key issues of concern. It is certain they will emerge as key issues from the forthcoming budget. By Niall Crowley

Ireland already suffers from significant income inequality - some 6% of the population earn about 28% of the income. It is going to get worse. This matters for the people at the wrong end of this policy and it matters for all of society.

Research ('The Spirit Level' by Wilkinson and Pickett) has shown that societies characterised by income inequality have lower levels of educational attainment, life expectancy and trust and higher levels of mental health problems, rates of imprisonment and violence.

It is an irrational policy choice to pursue income inequality. Yet this is what is about to be done through cuts in social welfare payments, reductions in the national minimum wage, the extension of the tax net to the lower paid and increases in VAT.

The Claiming our Future event last October was far more rational in prioritising policy choices for income equality. Over one thousand people met to deliberate on a policy agenda for an equal, sustainable and thriving Ireland. They accorded a shared priority to the goal of achieving greater income equality and reducing poverty through wage, tax and income policies that support maximum and minimum income thresholds. This policy priority is to be the focus for one of the first Claiming our Future campaigns with a specific focus on preserving the national minimum wage and associated wage levels.

We need a budget that focuses on a maximum wage rather than attacking the minimum wage.

Niall Crowley is spokesperson for Claiming Our Future. For more information see