Government policy widens gap between rich and poor

"Government policy has been increasing the income of the richest ten per cent of households and widening the gap between these and the rest of society", a study by Social Justice Ireland reports. The report predicts that current Government policy will "produce a dramatic increase in poverty and social exclusion".

(Pictured: Sean Healy of Social Justice Ireland. Download the report by clicking here)

The study shows some startling statistics on income distribution. Broken down into deciles (10% segments) the study shows that: 

  • The bottom decile receives 2.28% of all disposable income.  
  • Collectively, the poorest 50 per cent of households received a very similar share of income (25.25%) to the top 10% (24.48%).  
  • Overall the share of the top 10% is nearly 11 times the share of the bottom 10%. 

The study shows that in 2009, 14.1% of the population (or 628,761 people) were living in poverty. This is a lower number people than previous years in the noughties, but an increase on 2008.

The study shows that social welfare is hugely important to those living in poverty. In 2009, almost half of the population (46.2%) lived in poverty before social welfare payments were taken into account (reducing it by 32.1% to 14.1%). 

The report is critical of Budget 2011 and the Four Year Plan, in particular the reduction in social welfare payments and the reduction of the minimum wage. The report states:

"Recent policies have begun to target the poorest in our society and their implementation will drive poverty up. It cannot be acceptable that Ireland’s poorest be condemned to even deeper poverty in the year ahead."

The document outlines a core policy objective: 

"To provide all with sufficient income to live life with dignity. This would involve enough income to provide a minimum floor of social and economic resources in such a way as to ensure that no person in Ireland falls below the threshold of social provision necessary to enable him or her to participate in activities that are considered the norm for society generally."