Best of Times?
There was an unfortunate tendency during the Celtic Tiger period to consider economic growth as an end in itself rather than consider it as a means to the end of a better quality of life for all in society. Because of this, the Irish boom tended to be assessed simply on the basis of its ability to generate high growth rates in GDP/GNP rather than on its impact on people’s lives. This is despite the fact that the social impact of the boom became the subject of lively debates which generated little consensus on whether this was, in the ESRI’s controversial phrase, the ‘best of times’ (Fahey et al., 2007). Assessing this social impact is the subject of this chapter. Since the aspiration to greater equality in the distribution of the benefits of economic growth has been a traditional objective of social policy (and, indeed, a yardstick for judging the success of development policies), distribution is the common theme that links the various topics of this chapter. It begins by examining more closely the distributional impact of the boom years, examining poverty, inequality and the little we know about the distribution of wealth. The following section examines the distribution of employment, examining whether there has been a general upgrading of the occupational structure or rather a deepening polarisation, with a growth of not only high quality but also low quality jobs. The third section traces inequality in areas of social provision such as education, health and housing, and also regional and gender dimensions of inequality.
KeywordsSocial Housing Regional Inequality Irish Society Wage Share Bottom Decile
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