Half of young working parents are living in poverty - report
Under pressure from the Dublin government, the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has censored its own economic report which said a huge proportion of Irish workers fall into the category of working poor.
The research found that, due to rising costs, almost half of young working parents are now no better off financially than those in receipt of welfare.
The ESRI said the paper, ‘The Costs of Working in Ireland’, had been removed from its website because of “concern that the public could be misled by its content”.
A massive row quickly erupted between the ESRI, the government and the paper’s main author Professor Richard Tol. Professor Tol said he stood by its findings and blasted the ESRI for yielding to government pressure to suppress the results.
The unusual difficulties in Ireland facing those with low- to medium- incomes arise from the very high cost of living in the 26-County state. In particular, childcare in Ireland is more expensive than anywhere else in the world.
The paper found that someone with a job incurred five times the costs of an unemployed person when factors such as childcare, transport, clothing, and food are taken into account. As a result, the researchers found that 44 per cent of people with one or two children under five years old have take-home (net) earnings which are at or below social welfare levels.
For those without children the figure drops to 15 per cent, or one in seven.
In a statement to justify withdrawing the report, the ESRI claimed Professor Tol had revised his figures and arrived at new ones.
But Tol, who is now professor of economics at the University of Sussex, strongly denied he has revised the data, saying: “I did not revise the paper.
“Not content with censoring my work, is the ESRI now trying to put words in my mouth?”
He continued to stand over his conclusions.
Despite the embarrassment the report created for the government, debate in the mainstream media largely avoided discussion of the severe financial pressures facing low- to medium- income families. Instead, there were warnings that those in receipt of social welfare might prefer to remain unemployed, rather than re-enter the workforce.
Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald said the paper had been spun to create an impression that the “hundreds of thousands of people out of work are living a gilt-edged lifestyle”.
“There is no doubt that people at work are struggling to meet their bills, we know that,” Ms McDonald said to Mr Kenny in a parliament debate.
“There’s is no doubt people are struggling directly as a consequence of the policies that you are pursuing.
“I want you to take responsibility for your position and for your decision and to acknowledge to the hundreds of thousands of families right across this state, some in work and some on welfare, who struggle to make ends meet, that you are responsible for that.”
Mr Kenny said his government would accept responsibility for the decisions it makes.
“Of course I recognise that many people in this country are struggling, of course I understand the despair that some people feel and I empathise with them in their frustration,” he said.
Ironically, a level of support for Ireland’s poor was expressed this week by the ‘Troika’, the group of EU and IMF officials overseeing the government’s handling of bailout funds.
In its latest report, the IMF warned that public opposition to new universal household charges are “a timely warning” to the government to ensure Ireland’s reform burden is “fairly and equitably shared”, according to the report.
SOLIDARITY WITH GREECE
Meanwhile, an anti-austerity protest is due to take place in Dublin tomorrow [Saturday], in solidarity with the people of Greece, who have struggled with greater austerity measures than those yet imposed in Ireland.
The rally is being held at 1pm at the Spire on O’Connell Street in support of Greeks who will vote in critical elections on Sunday.
“Since this crisis began, fear, threats and intimidation have become part of the fabric of daily life for tens of millions of people across Europe,” said Greece Solidarity Ireland.
“In Ireland, successive right-wing governments, bosses’ organisations, billionaire-owned newspapers and radio stations and have churned out threat after threat. They spread constant fear about the catastrophe that will unfold unless we obey ‘the markets’ and throw away our rights to decent public services and working conditions in order to pay off speculator debts.
“But as the recent vote on the Fiscal Treaty has shown, giving in to fear and threats simply brings more fear, more threats, and more devastation.
“The circuit of fear in Europe must be broken. The Greek people can make this break by choosing to reject the doctrine of fear and the socio-economic deprivation that has been so brutally imposed on them.”