Wednesday 17 January 2018

Where is the justice in leaving working poor to shoulder the burden of recovery?

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton has tried to address the welfare traps that stop people from going back to work. Photo: Damien Eagers
Social Protection Minister Joan Burton has tried to address the welfare traps that stop people from going back to work. Photo: Damien Eagers
Eamon Delaney

Eamon Delaney

The latest report by Social Justice Ireland about poverty contains revelations that are shocking and yet not so surprising. It claims 170,000 more people are living in poverty since the beginning of the recession and one in five children live in households with incomes below the poverty line. But the really damning statistic is that 16pc of adults living in poverty are actually working. Indeed, it is surprising that this figure is not actually higher.

Many of us would have problems over the years with the definition of 'poverty' as used by Fr Sean Healy of Social Justice Ireland, and the way the definition was rather relative during the boom. However, now that times have changed so dramatically, his statistics and focus are particularly apt. For this is not a crisis that is hitting everyone equally.

The reality is that we have not a two-tier economy but a three-tier one. There are those at the top still enjoying a relatively good lifestyle. There are those at the bottom who are on social welfare, and there are those in the middle: the squeezed middle.

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