Responding to the publication of the Survey on Income and Living Conditions last week, Anna Visser Director of the European Anti-Poverty Network Ireland, welcomed the 2.1% fall in the at risk of poverty rate but warned of significant challenges ahead for 2010.
At risk of poverty rates were down for all age groups from 2007 but remained high for children (18%) and households where no-one is working (32.7%). Consistent poverty fell by 5.1% to 4.2%.
“There are two very clear messages from today’s survey,” according to Ms. Visser. “The first message is that social transfers like unemployment benefit, child income supports, pensions, family income supplement and the one parent family payment are the most effective tools that we have to reduce poverty rates in this country. Social transfers have lifted hundreds of thousands of people above the poverty line, and without the social welfare system, Ireland’s poverty rate in 2007 would have been 41%”
Ms. Visser continued:
“The second message is about the relationship between poverty and unemployment. Nearly 33% of households where no-one is at work are at risk of poverty while the rate for households where two people are working is just 5%. It is important to remember that in many ways, this most recent Survey on Income and Living Conditions is already out of date. The survey covers the period from December 2007 to December 2008. There were 170,000 people on the live register in December 2007 while there are now 423,000 people signing on. The statistics are not reflecting the current impact of the crisis.”
The survey indicates that 6.7% of people in work are at risk of poverty. Ms. Visser warned that increases are inevitable if the Government decides to bring more low income workers into the tax net. The reduction in the at risk of poverty rate brings Ireland below the EU average (16%) for the first time. Significantly, the consistent poverty rate has fallen by nearly 3% since 2005 to 4.1%, bringing the Government within touching distance of their stated aim to reduce consistent poverty to between 2-4% by 2012 and to eliminate it by 2016.
“These kind of reductions in consistent and at risk of poverty rates don’t happen by accident. They occur because of policies that improve people’s lives and impact positively on the social and economic infrastructure of the country. Cuts in social welfare rates will undoubtedly have a negative impact on the many hundreds of thousands of people who are barely getting by this year.”
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