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Defining ‘key workers’ is divisive

THE Irish Examiner’s editorial of September 21, ‘Incentives needed for key workers’, laments the fact that "key workers" cannot afford to buy a house in Ireland’s towns and cities.

In your view, "key workers" includes certain public sector workers, but no one else — a puzzling position.

Why would a nurse at the hospital be a "key worker" but not the receptionist at the same hospital? If receptionists are "key workers" — including those in hospitals and in hotels — then why should the hospital and hotel delivery staff not be key workers, with their vital task of bringing supplies to the hospital and to the hotel?

If they qualify, then why not the mechanics that ensure the delivery trucks can deliver every day? If them, why not the garage manager and administrative staff? The simple fact is that in a market economy we are all "key workers".

Fundamentally, in a market economy, if our job was not needed it would not exist.

Also, apart from the difficulty of objectively deciding who is "key" and who is not, how would you propose to finance a scheme to ensure "key workers" could have access to housing?

Would you propose to levy an additional "non-key worker" tax on everyone else, thus making it even harder for these unfortunates to afford housing in the same cities as the privileged "key workers"?

Alternatively, would you propose to prohibit "non-key" workers from buying certain types of house and create a kind of social apartheid?

Either way, it sounds complicated and full of potential for injustice.

Ireland could take a simpler approach and introduce reforms that make the housing market more open and reasonable and supply housing to everyone at an affordable price. It need not be difficult.

However, simpler reforms might damage the ability (or need) of certain large political contributors to keep making those large political contributions. Simpler reforms might even damage politicians’ ability to play favourites and play one section of society off against the other.

Ireland’s housing crisis is a scandal. Your approach to nominating "key workers" would inevitably give more power to the politicians that have presided over this catastrophe and hardly seems a good solution.

Hugh Sheehy
Marina 48, 6-A
08005 Barcelona
Spain