Welcome to 2017 and a brief guide to our most important activities in this new year.
The analysis of economic inequality in Ireland remains the centre of TASC’s work. This year will be the third in which we produce our annual report Cherishing All Equally. Using publicly available statistics and synthesising recent research, the report will give the most up-to-date account of inequality in Ireland today. The 2017 edition will be launched at our annual conference which we share with FEPS – the Federation of European Progressive Studies. Save the date! Friday 19 May 2017.
Cherishing All Equally 2017 will review the key indicators of economic inequality in Ireland. Last year Cherishing All Equally 2016showed that inequality rose during the recession and was still rising despite the recovery. I would hope –though I’m not very optimistic – that this year we will be able to report that the trend has been halted or even reversed.
In 2016 in Ireland the continuing recovery was blighted by the worsening housing crisis. The crisis seems to be tied up with the very particular nature of what we have termed ‘Ireland’s economic model’. The number of homeless people is scandalous enough, but the crisis goes far deeper, affecting multiple groups in Irish society. The housing crisis will be a central theme of Cherishing All Equally 2017 and of the FEPS-TASC annual conference. The housing system, we will argue, does not just reflect the inequalities of Irish society, it further exacerbates them.
In 2016 we also released our reportEnforced Flexibility? Working in Ireland Today.
Researching employment in Ireland is the second main strand of TASC’s work. With the completion of our first project - Working Conditions in Ireland –
we’re now looking at the growth of precarious work and in particular its social consequences – the implications for social welfare, housing and even demography and the birth rate. The project includes a series of research workshops – the first one
, held last month, looked at the interaction between precarity and so-called active labour market policies; the next workshop will look at the new precarious conditions facing highly educated young people in Ireland and especially in Southern Europe. The project is also a collaboration with FEPS. As part of the project FEPS and TASC will be organising a major conference on precarious work across Europe in the autumn of this year. Details later!
Long before then, on 25 February 2017 (date to be finalised) TASC is sponsoring a showing of the Italian film ‘7 Minuti’ (Seven Minutes) about women workers who face deteriorating working conditions when their factory is sold to a large corporation (think Cleary’s?). Based on a true story, the film raises issues about the possibilities and contradictions of workers’ representation in firms where they work. We’re therefore using the screening to introduce the first of a series of TASC –DISCUSSIONS on corporate governance and the alternatives to the shareholder-value model of the corporation. These are part of our project ‘Towards a Stakeholder Model of Industrial Structure’ sponsored by the National Worker Directors’ Group.
TASC-DISCUSSIONS will also be part of our new project on ‘Ireland and the MNCs’ – another activity in collaboration with FEPS. After the Apple judgement Ireland’s dependence on a tax-based model of industrial policy has come under question. The project will explore the implications of the policy for Ireland’s for Ireland’s economy and society and consider realistic alternatives.
Arguing for open government and transparency in politics has always been an important part of TASC’s work. TASC is an active participant in the international Open Government Partnership and our recent work has focused especially on ‘off-the-record’ government (the curious situation where government takes decisions but never documents how they were reached….). During 2017 we will be continuing this work and developing a new project on corporate transparency, looking at the role of privately-owned – and increasingly secretive – companies to which government services are outsourced.
And finally we will of course be continuing our lunch-time seminars and the progressive economy blog – very soon the blog will be re-launched in a new format – TASC supporters are all welcome to post…
James Wickham was Jean Monnet Professor of European Labour Market Studies and Professor in Sociology at Trinity College Dublin. He has published widely on employment, transport and migration in Ireland and Europe; he is the author of Gridlock: Dublin’s Transport Crisis and the Future of the City and co-author of New Mobilities in Europe: Polish Migration to Ireland post-2004. His book Unequal Europe: Social divisions and social cohesion in an old continent analysed the collapse of the European Social Model; his new text book European Societies (Routledge 2020) examines the structures of inequality in contemporary Europe. He is a former director of TASC.