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Ireland has been a bright spot in a sea of gloom with a series of social reforms culminating in the legalisation of abortion being approved by a two thirds majority of the Irish people in a referendum in May and subsequently enacted in legislation just before the end of the year. Other recent referenda have provided for marriage equality and the de-criminalisation of blasphemy by similar margins.

The economy has been approaching Celtic Tiger boom time growth rates again with 10%+ expected for 2018 and a projected 4% in 2019 (assuming a soft Brexit). Once again these figures are distorted by the activities of global companies basing their HQs in Ireland and state finances are currently experiencing a non-sustainable  boom in corporate tax receipts as companies seek the maximise the benefits of Trump's corporate tax "reforms". Fears that the economy will over-heat in 2019 will probably lesson if there is a hard Brexit, as I expect.

For all the artificiality and non-sustainability of some of this "growth" there have been real benefits in terms of unemployment (down from 6.2 to 5.2% over the past 12 months), employment (plus c. 50K on a base of 2,221K in past 12 Months) and rising wages. However the inability of the government to effectively tackle rising healthcare waiting lists (despite massively increased expenditure), homelessness, availability of affordable housing, and availability of broadband in rural Ireland is creating major inequality and resentment.

Varadker's government could be the first to be turfed out of office despite delivering rapid economic growth if it does not tackle these growing problems more effectively, and his adherence to neo-liberal market based "solutions" is not helping matters in this regard. His perceived success in the Brexit negotiations will also count for little if a hard Brexit ensues causing further difficulty for more rurally based agriculture and food producing industries.

The Urban rural divide may become the defining feature of Irish politics in the next few years unless tackled more effectively.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 26th, 2018 at 10:57:10 PM EST
Why 2018 was such a strong year for the Irish economy

No matter what way you slice and dice the numbers, incomes in Ireland of those in the middle are rising. In 2018, incomes rose for men (+2 per cent) and women (+3.8 per cent) alike.

When we break it down between those in work, on the dole or on disability, we see clear positive trends. Incomes for those in work rose by +3.3 per cent, for the unemployed and for those unable to work due to disability, incomes were up by +4.3 per cent.

For those who are studying, incomes were up +4.1 per cent and those tending to the home saw their incomes rise by +2.5 per cent.

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While the median income of urbanites fell slightly last year (-0.9 per cent), if we look over the past two years, there has been a significant increase for both urban (+5.5 per cent) and rural dwellers (+7.6 per cent) alike.

The two main groups that experienced a material drop in the median income last year serve to illustrate the looming threats to the economy, namely the elderly and, of course, renters.

Indeed, retirees saw a 3.8 per cent decline in median equivalised real disposable income, while those renting at the market rate witnessed a sizable 6.6 per cent drop.

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It's easy to dismiss the upswing as a multinational-driven, Grand Canal Dock, avocado-and-sourdough thing, but there has been an impressive catch-up between urban and rural incomes in recent years. In 10 years, the gap between rural and urban incomes has been reduced from 20 per cent to just 4 per cent.

This progress has been achieved without any dramatic increase in income inequality. That said, as argued here and in documentaries like Ireland's Great Wealth Divide, wealth inequality not so much income inequality is where the problem lies in Ireland.

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The consistent poverty rate has fallen from 8.2 per cent to 6.7 per cent. The Children's Rights Alliance was keen to note that the latest data from the CSO revealed the biggest decline in child poverty in recent years, with the share of 0-17-year-olds living in consistent poverty falling from 10.9 per cent in 2016 to 8.8 per cent last year. This means that an estimated 24,000 children were lifted from poverty last year.

The rising chorus of complaints about an increasing urban/rural divide are caused less by perceptions of income inequality, rather than by services inequality, with broadband, public transport, healthcare services, and public infrastructure such as post offices/banks declining in smaller rural areas.

As against that the housing shortage crisis is mostly still in Dublin, which is forcing people to commute ever longer distances, with traffic congestion, partly caused by poor public transport infrastructure, resulting in very long commuting times.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Dec 29th, 2018 at 04:05:08 PM EST
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