Howlin urges progressive leaders to focus on tackling inequality

16 September 2017

Speaking at the Global Progress Summit 2017, Brendan Howlin today urged progressive leaders to focus on increasing employment, growing wages and tax justice as mechanisms to combat growing inequality in society.

Deputy Howlin said:

“Instead of always looking at unemployment levels which ignore the fact that many women and people with disabilities are outside the workforce, it is time that social democratic leaders look instead at overall employment levels. Countries like the UK, Germany, Greece and Canada have succeeded in getting 75% or more of working age adults into work, while countries like Ireland seem content to settle for a level of employment as low as 65%.

“If getting people into work is important, wage growth is equally so. Over the last decade, we have seen relative wage stagnation across the developed world, eroding public trust that economic growth will deliver improvements to living standards. By transforming minimum wages to become living wages; reintroducing a model of social partnership that can drive wage growth across our economy; and legislating for wage transparency to put an end to the gender pay gap, we can change this for the better.

“The third key aspect of tackling inequality is embedding the notion that every person and company should make a fair contribution in our societies. Every wealthy person and profitable company should pay some minimum effective rate of taxation, and there should be a limit on the period of time over which companies can write off losses incurred during economic crises.

“These three policies can fundamentally tackle inequality in our societies. And if implemented, they can also serve as the basis for a restoration of public trust in social democratic and progressive politics – in Ireland, and across the world.”

During his presentation, Deputy Howlin also warned that a tax cutting agenda, a lack of democracy in global trade agreements and the possible consolidation of European corporate taxes represent three major risks that could offset this agenda for tackling inequality.

“While the idea of continuing to cut taxes for middle income families is politically appealing in the short-term, it ultimately erodes the capacity of the state to reduce inequality in our societies. Progressive leaders should be at the forefront of arguing for the transformative impact that state investment can have on our people.

“Trade deals such as TTIP and CETA, negotiated outside normal democratic structures, raise enormous suspicions amongst our people. While global trade clearly contribute to reducing global poverty, the impact within countries can vary wildly. We need global trade deals, but we need them to be negotiated through democratic structures, and designed to provide meaningful support to communities that will lose out as a result of them.”

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