Low Unemployment Rate not Translating to Better Living Standards

Ireland’s unemployment rate has reached all-time lows and people are not able to experience the benefits. Rising house prices are increasing faster than the raise in wages causing bad living standards for many people. The Central Statistics Office posted an unemployment rate at 4.5% last month. Despite this low number, ICTU President Sheila Nunan is still worried about different groups of people that are affected. She mentioned additional problems like youth joblessness, skills shortages, and low employment levels for women as factors that need to be addressed.

Rent has risen approximately 8% in the last year while wage hikes have averaged about 3% over the same period. Many people are calling for wage hikes to be implemented to allow people to afford rising costs in the housing markets. Rent costs contribute to more than half of minimum living costs in Dublin.

The living wage refers to the wage that people need to earn to be able to afford the minimum basket of goods and services. Few employees have used that number as the starting salary for their employees and instead aim for the minimum wage. Living Wage Technical Group said, “If rents had remained stable in the last year, the living wage would not be increasing in 2019.” Higher rental costs are causing the living wage to increase along side of it.

Sheila Nunan while addressing the Irish Congress of Trade Unions biennial delegate conference said, “prices nationally have increased 80% since the low point of the recession.” She also mentioned how homes in half of the counties in Ireland are unaffordable for first time buyers who earn average incomes. She also added, “young workers tell us they have lost confidence in ever being able to buy a home of their own.” This is a saddening statement and the morale of home buyers is very low.

Following the increase of 19 new rent pressure zones, Labor housing spokesperson Jan O’Sullivan wanted the whole country to become a rent pressure zone to ease rising prices in the rental market.

Economist, Alan McQuaid, demanded a more relaxed system of rules for homeowners to attain mortgages and an added tax for foreign fund investors commonly known as ‘cuckoo funds. Alan McQuaid acknowledges that many people are working, but their wages are not allowing them to live a comfortable lifestyle. The cost of living is exceeding wage increases and the government and bank has not done anything to help.

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