TASC report shows that consistent child poverty almost doubled during recession

20 July 2016

Publication cover - TASC_InequalityReport_2016_web
Cover image for TASC_InequalityReport_2016_web

A TASC report shows that consistent child poverty almost doubled during the recent economic recession. This data is contained in Cherishing All Equally 2016, the first annual update of TASC’s groundbreaking 2015 report on economic inequality in Ireland.

Cherishing All Equally 2016 – which was prepared by Dr Rory Hearne and Cian McMahon – updates 18 key economic inequality indicators including the distribution of income and wealth, as well as the provision of public services, taxation, family composition, people’s capacities and the cost of goods and services. In addition, the report includes two in-depth themed sections: ‘Children and economic inequality in Ireland’ and ‘Gender and economic inequality in Ireland’ – the latter section was prepared by UCD’s Dr Ursula Barry and Dr Maggie Feeley.

According to lead author of the report, Dr Rory Hearne, the proportion of children living in consistent poverty in Ireland almost doubled during the economic recession from 6.3% in 2008 to 11.2% in 2014.

“This equates to 138,000 children, or one in eight, living in consistent poverty. This can be contrasted to the adult consistent poverty rate of 7.9% in 2014 and 2.1% for those aged 65 and over. Of all households with children, lone parents have the highest poverty and deprivation rates – 18.3% of all children in Ireland live in lone parent households.”

Cherishing All Equally 2016 looks in some depth at the impact of increased economic vulnerability on children in areas such as education outcomes based on evidence from the Growing Up in Ireland study:

“At nine months, the level of household income a child is born into has no correlation with their inherent cognitive potential. But by the age of three, those in higher income families are performing better with a difference of at least 10 points in the average scores on the Naming Vocabulary tests,” Dr Rory Hearne said.

“At age nine years, a 1% increase in household income is predicted to increase reading score by 5.16% and maths scores by 5.1%. Again at age nine, children in the bottom income deciles are disproportionately more affected by learning disabilities – the incidence of speech and language difficulties amongst children aged nine in the bottom three deciles are double the incidence for children in the top three deciles.”

Dr Hearne explained that the impact of income disparity on educational outcomes becomes stronger as children get older.

“At just nine years of age there is a strong negative correlation between children’s self-image and their social class background with children from more disadvantaged backgrounds more anxious, less happy and reported poorer behaviour. By age 13, only 36% of children from the bottom income decile expect to achieve a third-level education in contrast to 65% of children from the top income decile.”

Turning to its wider analysis of economic inequality in Ireland, Dr Rory Hearne said that Cherishing All Equally 2016 reveals that since its last report published in 2015, some indicators have worsened including those in relation to gross income, wealth, deprivation, public expenditure and the cost of living. On the other hand, there have been some welcome improvements, particularly in relation to the increase in employment rates and the National Minimum Wage, as well as the fall in levels of people that are not in employment, education or training.

  • The top 10% share of gross income – namely the share of income before social transfers take effect – has increased from 33.93% in 2011 to an estimated 38.75% in 2016, with the share of the bottom 90% declining from 66.07% to 61.25% over the same period;
  • Ireland’s net income inequality – after social transfers – changed slightly from 29.9 in 2012 to 30.8 in 2014, the EU average is 30.9;
  • Employment rates for 20-64 year olds have increased from 65.5% (2013) to 68.8% (2014);
  • 29% of the population were experiencing two or more types of enforced deprivation in 2014, an increase on 2012’s figure of 26.9%;
  • Statutory Minimum Wage as a proportion of the Living Wage has increased from 76% (2015) to 79.5% (2016);
  • Numbers of 15-29 year olds not in employment, education or training has declined from 18.1% (2013) to 16.8% (2015);
  • Share of 0-16 year olds at risk of poverty or social exclusion declined from 33.6% in 2013 to 29% in 2014 – the EU average is 27.4%;
  • Ireland’s cost of living in relation to the European average has worsened – in 2012 it was 21.2% above the EU average, in 2014 it was 25.1% above that average. 

Dr Rory Hearne said that some of the key factors contributing to economic inequality in Ireland include low paid jobs, low hours employment, precarious employment and unemployment.

“At 23%, Ireland has one of the highest incidence of low paid jobs in the OECD. The increase this year in the minimum wage to €9.15 per hour is very welcome, but it remains 20% lower than the estimated wage of €11.50 per hour required to live a decent life.”

Continuing on the theme of low pay, Dr Rory Hearne said that Dr Ursula Barry’s and Dr Maggie Feeley’s section on Gender and economic inequality in Ireland, shows how gender inequalities result in a concentration of women in low paid, part-time work and in unpaid care work.

“Women’s continued position as society’s default caregivers, along with wider societal and economic gender discrimination, and the absence of adequate state-provided care structures, results in a significant gendered pay and pension gap. Gender inequalities also result in women in Ireland being underrepresented in more senior positions in employment.”

Dr Rory Hearne said that Barry and Feeley’s review of data on gendered economic conditions leads them to propose that a more equal sharing of paid and unpaid work would be in the interests of both women and men, and the basis of a more just society.

Download the report here.

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