Thursday 14 December 2017

David McWilliams: A future where children are poorer than parents

Every time I walk past a tiny house on Railway Road in Dalkey, it amazes me that my immigrant grandmother gave birth to six children there in the 1920s and 1930s. As is typical for many Irish people, our family history is one of upward social mobility in a generation or two.

My dad left school to go to work before doing the Leaving Cert; yet I got the opportunity to go to fourth-level education. This is social progress and a similar experience is shared by hundreds of thousands of us as free education, rising incomes and greater opportunities have allowed recent generations of Irish people to become more prosperous than their fathers or grandfathers ever expected.

When I look at my own children, I wonder if such upward social mobility is coming to a halt. Is the Irish middle-class about to disappear? This is a very real question. Will my children and their contemporaries be the first generation of Irish children in over 80 years to be poorer than their parents? And if so, should we do something about it?

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