Beyond Income Inequality

Inequality – It’s not just about income

The term inequality does not only refer to economic inequality but covers a broad range of issues such as inequality on the basis of gender or ethnic minority. There are a number of factors which create barriers and difficulties and make people more at risk of poverty. These factors should be seen within the overall structural context of how a particular country chooses to distribute wealth and tackle inequality. In terms of individuals, some key factors are seen as making a person more “at risk” of being in poverty such as:

  • unemployment or having a poor quality (i.e. low paid or precarious) job as this limits access to a decent income and cuts people off from social networks
  • low levels of education and skills because this limits people’s ability to access decent jobs to develop themselves and participate fully in society
  • the size and type of family i.e. large families and lone parent families tend to be at greater risk of poverty because they have higher costs, lower incomes and more difficulty in gaining well paid employment
  • gender – women are generally at higher risk of poverty than men as they are less likely to be in paid employment, tend to have lower pensions, are more involved in unpaid caring responsibilities and when they are in work, are frequently paid less
  • disability or ill-health because this limits ability to access employment and also leads to increased day to day costs
  • being a member of minority ethnic groups such as the Traveller Community, Roma, and immigrants/undocumented migrants as they suffer particularly from discrimination and racism and thus have less chance to access employment, often are forced to live in worse physical environments and have poorer access to essential services
  • living in a remote or very disadvantaged community where access to services is worse.
  • Discrimination, in access to employment and to goods and services, is a direct cause of poverty for many people in Irish society. This includes discrimination against those covered under Ireland’s equality legislation but also due to a person’s socio-economic status.