Top 10% of Irish society hold over half the country’s wealth

The top 10% of Irish society hold more than half of the country’s wealth, while the bottom 50% have just 4.95% of it.

Furthermore, at 23% Ireland has one of the highest incidences of low-paid jobs in the OECD.

In relation to young people, the number of children living in consistent poverty in Ireland has almost doubled, from 6.3% in 2008 to 11.2% in 2014.

All of these figures are in a new report called Economic Inequality in Ireland, put together by the public education charity TASC (Think-tank for Action on Social Change).

Barnardos CEO Fergus Finlay launched the report yesterday. “If I could pass any law I would make it compulsory that every member of the Oireachtas has to read this report and has to stand up and defend themselves in the face of it,” he said.

In reference to his area of expertise, working with children affected by poverty, Mr Finlay said there were five key messages he hears from young people.

Fergus Finlay
Fergus Finlay

“This is what kids have said to us, five things that children need: one, I want to be safe, to have enough food and somewhere comfortable to call home. I want someone to love me and look after me no matter what. I want to learn and have fun.

“I want to be accepted for who I am and be part of a circle of friends and family and community who will understand me and value my opinions. I want to be able to get help when I need it. There are thousands and thousands of children in Ireland for whom those conditions don’t exist and remain a kind of aspiration,” he stated.

The report was written by two policy analysts, Rory Hearne and Cian McMahon.

“The top 10% have over half the wealth in Ireland (53.8%) while the bottom 50% have just 5%. So whatever way you look at it, this is an extremely unequal distribution of wealth in Irish society,” said Mr Hearne.

“If we look at wealth among household groups, lone parents have substantially lower wealth than other households.

“This really shows the effects of inequality in Ireland, with a particular impact on lone parents, who are predominantly, overwhelmingly women-headed households.”

The specific figure relating to the gender of lone-parent families shows that women make up 90% of these units.

Other key figures in yesterday’s report show that the gender pay gap in Ireland stands at 13.9%. The pay gap in Ireland between women with no children and women with at least one child is 31%, the highest gap in the EU.

Maggie Feeley from UCD’s School of Social Justice and Ursula Barry contributed the chapter on gender and economic inequality to the report.

“In the absence of adequate State structures, women’s continued position as society’s default caregivers means they have less power and influence in public spheres where pivotal decisions about social structures and social and economic policies are made,” said Ms Feeley.

“The gender division of care does not happen by accident, it is deeply woven into our policy decisions, social structures, education system and all the ways, historic and contemporary, that women and others are subordinated and relegated to positions of less value in our society.”

Cian McMahon, the report’s co-author, said better State-led policy was required to help provide a sustainable recovery.


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