Friday 21 July 2017

Fairness has to extend to the coping classes too

Childcare and housing are not just issues for the poor, but also for those who pay all the taxes in this country, says Brendan O'Connor

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone insists on limiting any new childcare subsidies to those earning €47,000 or less. Photo: Tony Gavin
Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone insists on limiting any new childcare subsidies to those earning €47,000 or less. Photo: Tony Gavin
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

The clamour to the left in Ireland as a result of the water charges movement, the general election results, and the undue influence of Independents in the Government is in danger of leaving the coping classes behind and giving us a politics and a government that is totally out of step with the majority of the people who elected the Government, the same people who largely keep this economy going.

Take the issue over the new childcare subsidies. According to some reports, Katherine Zappone is standing firm on only offering new childcare subsidies to the lower paid - households earning €47k or less. Under those circumstances two parents earning €25k each, who could have two children in childcare, costing up to €20k a year, would not avail of the benefits. Despite the fact that Enda Kenny has publicly suggested that the issue could be looked at again, and despite concerns expressed by Fine Gael backbenchers among others. There are suggestions that Zappone may refuse to include middle earners.

Childcare is a huge issue for the coping classes. Childcare is what keeps them out there, paying down their debt and paying their taxes. And realistically, with tax being as it is, most of them have to earn double the cost of the childcare in their jobs before they take home anything for themselves. It is a huge disincentive for middle-class women in particular to continue contributing to the economy if they find they are barely breaking even, while taking on the enormous stress of managing work and the home. And realistically it is women who do most of the work in the home and in childcare, even if they work outside the home also. But Zappone seems to be zealous in her ideology here. Even though this ideology clearly does not chime with that of the major party in government.

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