Poverty & Inequality

Poverty and Inequality

GrowthThere is a less visible form of poverty known as ‘relative poverty’ which is still a problem in our society. This is also known as being ‘at risk of poverty’.

Picture yourself standing on the bottom step of a set of stairs, with someone else standing on the step above you.

There is just one step between you. But if the person in front of you moves up a step, and then another, and then another, they will eventually be much further up the stairs than you.

Although you haven't moved, so you are still in the same position on the stairs, you are now much further away from the person in front of you.

In the beginning, you would have had to move up just one step to meet the other person, but now you would have to climb many more to be at the same level as them.

That is how poverty and inequality can work.

If the position of people at the lowest levels of wealth in society does not change, while at the same time other people in the society climb to a higher and higher level of wealth, in comparison the poorest are in a much worse position, as they move further away from the average income level.

This demonstrates what is known as relative poverty.

So even if you are not actually poorer, but if most other people in society have become richer, you will now be unable to afford the same things as the average person.

If equal distribution were to accompany growth, it should be more like standing on an escalator than a stairs - everyone would move to a higher position, but the distance between them would not change as a result - no one gets left behind.

In recent years, the standards of living in Ireland rose significantly as there was more wealth in the country overall. But this did not reduce the levels of relative poverty. Now unemployment has risen and incomes have fallen, but costs of living are still high. It is likely that today more people and families are experiencing relative poverty as a result.