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NESC publishes Council Report no 151: The Future of the Irish Social Welfare System: Participation and Protection


18th November 2020

The current Covid-19 pandemic has shone a light on the important role of the social welfare system, especially at a time of national crisis.  But, is Ireland’s social welfare system fit for purpose in the 21st century?  A new report from the National Economic and Social Council (NESC) addresses this question and proposes a number of reforms.

One of the report’s authors, Dr Helen Johnston said, “while the current welfare system has coped well in the face of the Covid-19 crisis, over the longer term there is a need to modernise the welfare system in a number of areas.  The report sets out specific proposals on: ensuring income adequacy and alleviating poverty; modernising family supports to reflect gender and care needs; and supporting high participation in education and employment; while at the same time ensuring financial sustainability”.

The report reflects on the implications of the measures put in place to mitigate the impact of Covid-19.  Dr Anne-Marie McGauran, another of the report’s authors stated, “the report makes the case for a stronger social insurance system, along with better recognition of atypical work.  For example, the report argues for reconsideration of ‘flexicurity’, which combines a high level of mobility between jobs with a comprehensive income safety net for the unemployed, plus strong supports for job search and retraining”.

A novel idea in the report is the piloting of a participation income.  Such an income could take the shape of a person receiving an income for making a societal contribution, such as voluntary work, caring, or other work of societal value.  Adjustments are outlined which could be made to the social welfare and tax systems to accommodate caring to a greater extent than at present.  The dilemma of caring for children and other relatives whilst working was highlighted for many workers during the pandemic restrictions.

As the country emerges from the Covid pandemic, it will be increasingly important that the welfare system is robust enough to prevent widespread poverty.  The report sets out a number of anti-poverty measures to address such concerns, including the need for good quality, accessible services such as childcare, housing, education and healthcare, as well as supports for community innovation along with adequate income payments.

To view the full report click here

Note to Editors:  This report is based on in-depth analysis, including 9 working papers which will be made available on in coming weeks.

For further information, please contact:

Dr. Helen Johnston,

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