A substantial part of the over €20 billion social welfare budget is going to support employed people receiving “inadequate” wages Galway TD Catherine Connolly has said.
Speaking in the Dáil, Deputy Connolly said that there is “no escaping” the fact that Ireland needs to bring in a living wage.
The Independent TD asked Tániaste Leo Varadkar if the government has received a report from the Low Pay Commission, which itself has commissioned research from NUI Maynooth on moving to a living wage in Ireland.
“Workers in this country could not survive without the benefit of the State through social welfare, which is €21 billion or €22 billion per year, a substantial proportion of which goes to back up inadequate wages.”
“It is essential we comply with what was set out in the programme for Government, which is a minimum wage. People cannot survive without it.”
Tánaiste Varadkar said that the government is committed to “progressing a living wage” in the lifetime of this government.
However, he added that many small businesses have been badly affected by the pandemic, and are already struggling to pay their existing wages.
“We need to make sure we proceed in a way that does not cause jobs to be lost in terms of numbers of people employed or that would see employees having their hours cut, as to do so would be counterproductive.”
The Low Pay Commission was asked to examine this prospect last year, and commissioned a team of researchers at NUI Maynooth to look at the “policy, social and economic implications” of moving to a loving wage.
“The research will examine international evidence on living wages, examining different calculation methods, examining the policy implications and outlining options for moving to a living wage in Ireland,” Leo Varadkar said.
The Tánaiste said that this research was delivered to the Low Pay Commission in January, and he is expecting a report “perhaps in the next month” on their evaluation.
Deputy Connolly asked if the a more precise time could be given for when that report will be ready, as well as if and when it will be published.
“I understand many small employers cannot pay enough because there are many restraints on them, but there is no escaping the fact we need a living wage.”
“It has certainly become much more difficult to provide it because of the way we have given free rein to the market.”
The Tánaiste said that the report and research will be published, but that he cannot give a definitive timeline, as the commission is not under his control.
“It has a new chairman and a number of new members in addition to other ongoing work. My officials tell me we expect to get the report next month, which will be March.”
If that happens, it is hoped that proposals can be brought before the government in April or May he added, with the goal of implementing a plan in 2023.