Tuesday 27 September 2016

A 'modest proposal' which can do good

Published 22/07/2015 | 02:30

The recent recessionary years - what our Finance Minister poetically called
The recent recessionary years - what our Finance Minister poetically called "Ireland's lost decade" - have been difficult for everyone (Stock image)

With due apologies to the late, great Jonathan Swift, we can record the plan to add 50 cent to the minimum wage as "a modest proposal". We expect the anxieties of small business about it can be addressed.

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The Low Pay Commission, established at the behest of Labour in government, has produced a detailed and evidence-based report which has looked at many aspects of the issue. We must note that, even in these times of low inflation, the minimum wage has stayed at €8.65 per hour for the past eight years.

There was one brief foray in late 2010 and early 2011 when it was actually reduced by the previous recession-stricken government. The Fine Gael-Labour coalition in spring 2011 reversed that cut and kept faith with voters on one important election promise at least.

The recent recessionary years - what our Finance Minister poetically called "Ireland's lost decade" - have been difficult for everyone. But they have been a nightmare for small and medium-sized businesses.

The people who successfully kept their enterprises going against the odds deserve special recognition now that things are at last on the up again. In effect they are the ones who kept Ireland Inc open for business and they are now the ones we will look to again to sustain the recovery.

But we must also recognise that workers on small pay have also suffered. Many of them now go to work each day looking at neighbours who will tell them that welfare yields a comparable income for far less effort.

These people need a signal that their work is valued and that they are right to choose work over welfare. They are a small group whose economic impact is limited.

It is the duty of small business representatives to fight their members' corner, and everyone must be sensitive to the needs of people who help generate jobs. Government must listen carefully to their concerns about the impact of this increase on tax and social charges. But with a little wit and creativity, these problems can be addressed and this modest wage increase can be turned to the advantage of all.

The Taoiseach has pledged to do that in the Budget due next October. We trust the Government will do just that.

Irish Independent

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