Tuesday 23 January 2018

Rising incomes 'helping to close the wealth gap'

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar Photo: Tom Burke
Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar Photo: Tom Burke

Charlie Weston and Anne-Marie Walsh

Ireland has become more equal, with overall incomes rising.

The gap between what the rich and the poor earn is smaller here than the average in the European Union. It comes as overall incomes rose in 2015.

This was due to more people getting jobs and because social welfare payments rose, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) said in a new report.

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar said the figures show Ireland has become more prosperous and less unequal.

"These figures demolish the argument made by some on the left that the gap between rich and poor is widening in Ireland. It is not. These numbers prove that the economic recovery is taking hold, is having a positive impact on incomes and is reducing inequality," he said.

The average income in 2015 was €20,000 per person, up more than €1,000 on the previous year. The numbers at risk of poverty also fell.

The measure that looks at income equality showed the spread between those on high incomes and those on lower incomes has narrowed.

The figures, contained in the CSO's 'Survey of Income and Living Conditions 2015' report, show two measures of inequality had statistically significant changes in 2015 when compared with the previous year.

Statistician Patrick Foley said: "What we are seeing is a drop in inequality. We are more equal than the EU average. We are more equal than the UK, Germany and Spain."

The CSO report also shows the average household had an income of €37,300 in 2015. This was nearly €2,000 more than the typical household had in 2013, but below pre-crisis levels.

Meanwhile, the main employer group Ibec warned that public servants should not get any more pay rises at new Government talks as their pay outstrips private sector workers' by 7pc and the average wage increase is 1.5pc ahead.

In a submission to the new body advising the Government on its pay policy, Ibec estimates that the cost of public sector pensions would be at least 30pc of wages if they were "replicated in the private sector" and says it is "imperative" the pension levy should become a permanent contribution by State workers.

The submission to the Public Service Pay Commission comes ahead of talks on a deal to succeed the Lansdowne Road Agreement, set to begin in May.

Irish Independent

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