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Inequality up, but no efforts to address it December 6, 2011

Posted by Tomboktu in Economics, Inequality, Ireland.

On Wednesday of last week, 30 November, official Ireland presented two faces of its approach to equality.

The Central Statistics Office reported the latest findings of levels of poverty and inequality (PDF here):

There was an increase in income inequality in 2010 as shown by the income quintile share ratio and the Gini coefficient. The quintile share ratio indicated that the average income of those in the highest income quintile was 5.5 times that of those in the lowest income quintile. This ratio was 4.3 one year earlier thus signifying greater inequality in the income distribution in 2010. The Gini coefficient showed a similar pattern increasing from 29.3% in 2009 to 33.9% in 2010. A Gini coefficient of 0% corresponds to perfect equality while higher Gini coefficients indicate a more unequal distribution. The Gini coefficient and the quintile share ratio indicate that the income distribution has become more unequal between 2009 and 2010 and reverses the downward trend evident since 2005.

In fact, the statistics show more than an increase from the previous year. They show that it is the highest since the SILC study (conducted under EU law) was first produced in 2004.

Michael Taft (here) and Sinéad Pentony (here) have separately written about what the CSO’s report tells us. Indeed, a comment on Taft’s post asks a very interesting question about the validity of the modeling used by the ESRI to assess the changes in the level of inequality. The ESRI’s model says there is none. Paper referred to in the comment here – 286-page PDF)

You would think that the CSO data showing increasing inequality (“INEQUALITY UP — OFFICIAL!“, as a red-top might put it), might lead those designing the bidget to think about what they are proposing. But by coincidence, Wednesday also saw the Department of Finance, through its mouth-piece Michael Noonan, confirm that inequality is not an issue that concerns them. They were prompted by Labour TD John Lyons, who was, in turn reacting to two reports from TASC on equality lessons for the budget (PDFs here [56 pages] and here [59 pages]). Lyons asked

Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider, in the course of his consideration of budgetary measures, the request by a group (details supplied) that all such measures be subject to an equality audit; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The answer was awful (emphasis added by me).

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Where budgetary matters are concerned the Government’s primary focus at present is on reducing the deficit further and returning sustainability to the public finances in the coming years. The focus of Government in this regard will be on taking decisions in a way that spreads the burden of the adjustment in as fair and equitable a manner as possible, while at the same time, seeking to minimise the negative impact on economic growth, which as we have seen is returning.

There are currently no plans to equality audit the measures in Budget 2012. However, I would point out that the Programme for Government does contain a commitment to require all public bodies to take due note of equality and human rights in carrying out their functions. I would also remind the Deputy that the State and its bodies take the provisions of equality legislation into account in the development and delivery of its policies and services.

Furthermore, the Cabinet handbook requires that Government memoranda indicate clearly, as appropriate, the impact of the proposal for, amongst other things, gender equality, persons experiencing or at risk of poverty or social exclusion and people with disabilities.

I hope John Lyons follows that up.


1. No comment… « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - December 6, 2011

[…] on from Tomboktu’s points today here, Fintan O’Toole this morning in the Irish Times, that references the Conlon debacle, and […]


2. Tomboktu - December 6, 2011

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