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Green Party Communications | 15.06.2012 | Back to News | News Archive
ESRI Report Shows up Basic Flaw in our Social Welfare System
The Green Party supports an alternative 'Basic Income' model that frees people up to do paid and unpaid work.
The controversy surrounding the methods used in the latest ESRI Report has succeeded in highlighting a basic flaw in our Social Welfare system which hinders people getting back to work once they have been made unemployed.
The Basic Income concept (http://www.basicincome.org/bien/aboutbasicincome.html) has been designed to address that problem. It entitles every citizen to a minimum income from the State which is given without a means test or work requirement. It is growing as an idea because the existing system is failing us as unemployment grows across the world. The concept has been supported by a range of Irish politicians, including Garret Fitzgerald and Brian Lenihan, but has been resisted by our administrative system and conventional economists who prefer the status quo.
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said today: "The controversy surrounding the ESRI Report has at least raised a serious flaw in our Social Welfare system. Whatever the dispute about the numbers in the Report, there seems to be no disagreement that there is a disincentive for a lot of people to get back to work once they become dependent on our Social Welfare system."
"We believe it is time for us to introduce a new 'Basic Income' model of social welfare which removes that dependency trap and frees people to do both the paid and unpaid work they need to do."
"We are already spending €20.5 billion a year in social protection, which is €4,500 for every man, woman and child in the country. There would be huge administrative savings by switching to a Basic Income model that saves on costly investigations into social welfare fraud."
"Some economists have argued we cannot afford such a system, but they are unable to price the social benefits that would arise or the value of having a more flexible and better motivated workforce. The administration system has always opposed the idea. There seems to have been a cultural problem with it which comes from entrenched separation that exists between the Departments of Finance and Social Protection."
"In the row around the ESRI Report some commentators have called for a lowering of the cost of childcare or a reduction in maternity leave to incentivise parents of young children back into the paid workforce and to lower the costs to the State. That only shows how mad our current system is. When did we decide that childcare was the least important work of all? Do we really think that it should be paid so low? What makes people think that certain childrearing options should be favoured, over others? Surely parents are best placed to make such decisions for themselves? The benefit of Basic Income is that it puts a value on the caring work that always needs to be done. It also clears the way for people to take up paid work in a flexible manner that might suit them best."
"This Government is frozen in the headlights of our economic crisis. It is time for the status quo to be broken and for real reform. We need Ministers who can manage their Departments so we get better value from our money. Minister Joan Burton should demand that her Department comes up with practical ways in which we could move to a Basic Income model. The alternative is for her to spend the rest of her time in Government doing nothing but signing Social Welfare cheques and chasing people down for welfare fraud. There is an alternative. She should take it up," concluded Eamon Ryan.