Tuesday, 17 December 2019
It is true that because we have progressive taxation and a decent social welfare system, it masks the fundamental inequality, which is the gap between those who earn the highest and the vast bulk of people who are on very low incomes. It is a fact that far too many of our citizens are barely earning enough to exist. They do not earn enough to pay rent in our inner cities or in our main towns. They struggle to pay for childcare, and some people are opting out of work because the cost of childcare is greater than their take-home income. Many of them face incredible pressure even in providing transport to work. The Government must recognise this reality before we set about resolving it.
While the State can influence income by a progressive tax and social welfare system, the fundamental issue of having a decent wage rate across all sectors of work, some of which were instanced by the Taoiseach in his reply, must be set as a national objective. Would the Taoiseach agree that we need a focus on what is an acceptable living wage rather than a minimum wage, and that since the minimum wage was instituted in 2000, Ireland has fallen well behind the target of bringing the lowest paid worker up to an equivalence with middle-income earners?