Reducing Inequalities in Europe
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Reducing Inequalities in Europe

How Industrial Relations and Labour Policies Can Close the Gap

Edited by Daniel Vaughan-Whitehead

International debate has recently focused on increased inequalities and the adverse effects they may have on both social and economic developments. Income inequality, now at its highest level for the past half-century, may not only undermine the sustainability of European social policy but also put at risk Europe’s sustainable recovery. A common feature of recent reports on inequality (ILO, OECD, IMF, 2015–17) is their recognition that the causes emerge from mechanisms in the world of work. The purpose of this book is to investigate the possible role of industrial relations, and labour policies more generally, in reducing these inequalities.
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Chapter 7: Social dialogue and inequality: Ireland

Brian Nolan


Ireland over the period from 1995 to 2012 saw a remarkable economic boom followed by deep recession, going together with dramatic fluctuations in employment levels, major changes in the composition of the labour force and in occupation and social class structures. Collective bargaining and social partnership were central throughout the boom but collapsed at the onset of recession; a national minimum wage introduced in 2001 was key to subsequent trends in earnings dispersion. Over the entire period from 1995 to 2012, middle-income groups fared well relative to the rest of the distribution. Income dynamics in boom and bust are however central to understanding trends, with some types of households doing much better in the boom, while the bust also affected some groups much more severely than others. The impact of public expenditure on public services is also a core element of middle-income living standards.

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