Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Conceptualising Economic Inequality

See here for a presentation conceptualizing economic inequality.

The presentation is designed to explore the concept of 'economic equality' by moving beyond a narrow focus on incomes (from employment and/or social transfers) and including wealth and public services, both of which provide cash-equivalent benefits and other personal benefits (such as security against risks).

The larger and more nuanced concept of 'benefit from the economic system' gives a better sence of how different social groups benefit from the way in which the economy is structured to provide a combination of market incomes, welfare incomes and public services (with both cash-equivalent value like social housing or less tangible but no less important value like security against illness or loss of a job). What emerges is a contrast between wealth confering benefits on those households who have assets versus public services confering benefits upon a wider pool of recipients, with those on low incomes (from work or welfare) gaining most from public services.

While we know that employment is the number one route towards more income equality, the Irish economic system (in 2011) was only able to provide 65.5 per cent of adults aged 25-64 with employment, and the numbers seeking employment far outweigh number of job vacancies annually. When we look at the over one million adults of working age who benefit from a weekly welfare payment, this paints a picture of a society where the large majority of people have low cash incomes, and therefore the importance of public services (and the harm of cuts) becomes more obvious. Conversely, tax changes that benefit people with higher income and wealth more clearly benefit a small minority of Irish people, not just a minority of those in employment.

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