Today marks 200 days of workplace lockdown, and a widening gulf between rich and poor’: Tóibín

On the 200th day of workplace lockdown, Aontú Leader Peadar Tóibín has criticised the growing economic inequality taking place in Ireland, which he says is being excerbated by Covid and creating a two-tiered Irish society.

“Covid-19 has highlighted and aggravated income and societal inequality both in our Ireland and globally. According to the CSO and the Central Bank in Q2 last year the lowest 2 deciles suffered the largest reduction in income. The ESRI study, entitled ‘A comparative assessment of minimum wage employment in Europe’, found that the young, those with low levels of education and migrants were most impacted with job losses across the country. Those who are heavily indebted are also likely to have an increased debt to income ratio due to the Covid Lockdown,” he said.

The Meath West TD said that self employed people have also been “hammered” over the last year with many wondering will they be able to reopen.

He also pointed to the enormous cost of the continued lockdown. “The cost of measures to fight Covid reached €24.6bn in 2020. This was the second largest financial impact per capita in the Euro zone”.

“While bookshops and small businesses have been shut dozens trucks from Amazon and other internet retail giants have been rolling into our ports each week. The combined wealth of the 10 richest men in the world rose by $540 billon during the pandemic. Whilst local shops and retailers have been kept shut by government Lockdowns, Amazon has profited – with CEO Jeff Bezos adding more than $70 billon – bringing his total worth to north of $180 billon,” he said.

“There is little evidence that this is being factored into Government decisions which created a Lockdown harder and longer than our European counterparts. One of the most significant impacts of the last year will have been the acceleration of the transfer of wealth from the many to very, very few”.

“The income that would have been earned by tens of thousands of  small Irish businesses who employ tens of thousands of Irish people has disappeared into the pockets of billionaires not even resident in this country. Despite close to half a million people forced into unemployment, the PUP is set at €36 below the poverty line,” the Aontú leader said.

“The ESRI has published data which indicates minimum wage workers are amongst the hardest hit in the pandemic, due to closures and widespread job losses in retail and hospitality in the past year. This has had a particularly detrimental impact on young people in Ireland aged between 18 and 29 who account for 41% of minimum wage workers. These job losses only serve to exacerbate the financial difficulties of those on the minimum wage in Ireland who are forced to survive a minimum wage far off the living wage or a wage which can begin to cover the astronomical living costs in Ireland.”

“We are living in a two-tier Ireland. An Ireland where government are unaffected by their own policies. An Ireland where the government has refused to pass the Aontú Bill seeking a 25% cut in salaries during the lowdown.  A case in point is the contrast between the government’s approach to the Banking Levy and the USC. The USC punished working people and hampered lower-income and minimum wage workers the most. That ‘Temporary measure’ is still in place to fund the government’s policies. The Banking Levy which imposes a negligible €150 million per annum upon banks to try claw back some of the €64 billion bank bailout, is set to expire this year and the Minister hasn’t made up his mind whether to extend it. The difference between the USC and Banking Levy? One impacts the people, the other protected interests. The reality of a two-tier Ireland couldn’t be clearer,” he said.

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