A rising tide
The latest CSO figures make for grim reading. While a rising tide lifts all boats, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the opposite is also true, and that those in the smallest boats take the brunt of it.
Some of the terminology used in the census is rather technical, but with some explanations courtesy of Professor Brian Lucey, I learned that the deprivation rate for people who are not considered “at risk of poverty” went, from 2009 to 2010, from nine to 20 per cent.
That’s one fifth of people – who are not considered poor – who are deprived. The indicators of deprivation include things like not being able to heat your home; not having more than one pair of strong shoes; not being able to afford a roast once a week, new (not second-hand) clothes, a warm waterproof coat or to buy presents for family or friends at least once a year. We’re not in sun holiday territory here; it’s not a ‘lifestyle choice’.
In our story by Brian Hayes Curtin this week, it’s revealed that 22 per cent of households were in arrears on their bills in 2010. That’s a lot of households, and there has been a dramatic drop in incomes – anecdotally, at any rate – since then.
Looking at the figures again, you can see that in 2009, approximately 50 per cent of single parent households were in poverty. In 2010, this had dropped to 36 per cent – which appears to be good news. But it’s not, unfortunately. It just means the goalposts have moved, and everybody in the lower end was worse off than they were the previous year – so the gap between the poor and the slightly less poor was narrowed.
Despite all this, the statistics show the rich are impacted less than anyone else. Quelle surprise.
And wall to wall coverage of the red herring that is the household charge means that these statistics, that are showing the real impact of cutbacks made in 2009, year one post-bank guarantee, are being overshadowed.
The implementation of the charge is disastrous. Phil Hogan’s handling of it has been ill-judged, and it’s turned a molehill into a mountain.
The charge isn’t equal. Like VAT, it’s a disproportionate tax that doesn’t take into account the circumstances of the person paying.
But it’s not, in essence, the worst idea. Almost every other country in the Western world has a property tax, and local services should be paid for locally. It should be proportionate – and we’re promised it will eventually be.
On the ground organisations throughout the country are facing rising poverty and inability to cope, and the furore over the household charge is taking attention – and funding – from them. Who do you think will suffer when local authorities need to find money to pay staff to go door to door ‘informing people’ of the need to pay this charge?
People are frustrated and the protest against the household charge is a simple one; it’s easy to just do nothing. But, while €100 is a substantial sum for many people, it’s just one of numerous, less publicity-friendly measures, that are increasing their risk of poverty.