independent

Friday 20 September 2019

Most would prefer a job to being on dole

WE IRISH have developed such a strong work ethic that we turn our noses up at the opportunity to livegood life on the dole, choosing instead to carry on with the daily grind even if we're out of pocket as a result. That could be – but wasn't- the conclusion drawn from a report on the costs associated with holding down a job in Ireland. The report, principally authored by former ESRI economist, Richard Tol, hit the headlines last week only to be quickly and controversially snubbed by the research institute itself.

The report ran the figures on the costs associated with going to work, adding in Ireland's very high childcare costs, and came to the rather unhappy conclusion that 44% of workers with children would be better off on the dole. The report also found that those who work incur five times the expense of those who don't.

Needless to say all this made very unpleasant reading for the working classes, who are already feeling a little over-burdened having to carry a crippled state on their backs. The report made for unhappy reading within the august academic ranks of the ESRI as well and the institute quickly withdrew the findings. The ESRI's director said Professor Tol's report was no more than a work in progress, that the "the underlying analysis requires major revision and that the paper's estimates overstate the number of people who would be better off on the dole than in work".

Professor Tol, however, is standing over his findings and, amid the squabbling among the intelligentsia, Fianna Fáil's finance spokesperson is calling for a probe into the whole affair, pointing out that it raises serious concerns about the relationship between the ESRI - an independent ' think tank' - and the Government, which provides 50% of its funding.

The ESRI – the Economic and Social Research Institute carries out very valuable work in holding a mirror up to the nation and telling us where we're going and where we're going wrong. However, regardless of the absolute precision of Professor Tol's figures -- and a contrary analysis says only 10 per cent of workers with children would be better off on the dole - there is no doubt but he touched on a nerve when he added up the cost of working.

As everybody with a job knows the privilege of working comes at a price. Transport, parking, lunch in restaurants, health insurance, even 'comfort buying' at the end of a hard week all come off the bottom line. After that subtract the money and benefits you'd get on the dole and if you're not working at a loss you just might find you're working for not a lot.

Yet most people still prefer to go to work and pay their way if they can. The reason for this apparent failure of common sense is simple: Despite all the pronouncements to the contrary, we're actually not a nation of dossers and, for the most part, we would rather work at a loss than take money for nothing.

Now, rather than getting into a flap about Professor Tol's findings, surely that's something very positive coming from the research that could be worked into the Government's economic planning.

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