Uplift’s Vision for a Fairer Tax and Social Welfare System

By 4th February 2022 January 11th, 2024 No Comments

Uplift’s vision for a fair and just tax system 

In Ireland, everyone should be able to put food on the table and return to a secure home they can afford in time to enjoy it with their family. But today, the pandemic has brought into sharp focus the scale of inequalities across communities – from our healthcare system, our employment system, to housing and to education. [1] 

Right now, more than ever, we all need to be able to access the public services that keep us healthy and safe. We deserve for our families and communities to have access to a great education, a home above our heads and healthcare.

Sadly, the tax and welfare system in Ireland falls short of what we need. That’s why we made a people-powered submission to the public consultation for the review of the Tax and Social Welfare Commission. So we asked our members to share their experiences of the tax and social welfare system and how this intersects with public services. 

We all deserve a fair share of the wealth our work creates. Everyone in Ireland contributes taxes so we can have the country we want. Great healthcare, education, public transport and clean air for everyone are priorities for most people in Ireland. It’s so important that we have caring and responsible governments that deliver for us.

When asked what sort of public services they would be supportive of to make our tax system fairer, Uplift members responded: 

  • 81% [965] of respondents want access to mental health services when we need it most.
  • 80% [957] of respondents want access to public healthcare without worrying about the cost. 
  • 79% [944] of respondents want a public education system which allows us all to reach our potential. 

The Uplift community believes that the state should prioritise quality public healthcare, secure homes, climate adapted public transport and clean air/water.

A creaking bedrock of inequality 

Many Uplift members felt that there are significant challenges and obstacles in the way which hinder the universal availability of quality public services. 

The sectors most severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic are those where young, migrant, or women workers (including lone parents) make up the majority of the working population. Further to this, nearly 40% of those who lost income are renters. [2] Not only did the pandemic expose structural inequality present among us, it reinforced and deepened inequalities based on gender, race and class. [3]

No one in Ireland should be forced to live in poverty. In good times and in hard times, we should all have the dignity and security of a roof over our head, food on the table and the essential things we need. 

When asked what were the biggest challenges facing the delivery of public services in Ireland, 

  • 89% [1061] of respondents felt that tax breaks are given to vulture funds on homes rather than ordinary people. 
  • 88% [1038] of respondents feel wealthy corporations do not shoulder the burden of their climate-polluting emissions. 
  • 87% [1034] of respondents feel that corporations based in Ireland do not pay their fair share in taxes. 

When we asked members to explain their experiences on some of the failures of the delivery of public services, what became abundantly clear was the interconnectedness of these issues. What also became clear from some of the answers is that there is a mistrust of the government and how tax expenditure is balanced, likely caused by a lack of transparency. Uplift members feel positively towards paying more tax so long as there is reliable, trustworthy and safe access to a range of public services. For most, there is a discrepancy between the high amount of tax provided by people, and the safe delivery of public services. 

Welfare that works for us all 

When the times are good and when the times are tough, we should all have the dignity and security of a roof over our head, food on the table and the essential things we need.

However, the current tax and social welfare system in Ireland is one that can be characterised as ‘gendered.’ [4] The system values the ‘male breadwinner’ antiquated structure of social protection. It is thought there are up to 100,000 “invisible women” in our system, women who are dependent on the family welfare system and their spouse. The stereotype of women as the traditional unpaid caregiver is reinforced, where unpaid care work is often viewed as “an infinite elastic resource” that women provide. [5] 

We need an economy/society that benefits everyone, not just the already wealthy. We need reliable jobs that pay enough to keep up with the cost of living and sustain a family. And we need a social safety net strong enough to keep families out of poverty when they’re struggling to make ends meet.

When asked what would you do to improve our welfare system so that nobody is forced to live in poverty 

  • 82% [980] of people would create a single-tier, equitable, accessible healthcare system for all 
  • 80% [959] of people would establish universal access to public services based on need and not on ability to pay 
  • 78% [925] of people would make it easier for carers to work without being unfairly penalised 

Many Uplift members shared their experiences of the welfare system from struggling to transition from welfare dependency to independence to the invisible unpaid work that is done in the home to disabled people unable to live successfully to the threat of how one payment may be taken away in any given scenario. 

Wealth Tax 

A strong social safety net and great public services are the bedrock of equality and opportunity for all. The provision of public services in a universal manner, rather than based on pay, is the strong social safety net we collectively need. Great public healthcare, homes and schools are exactly what taxes are supposed to pay for, and what budgets should prioritise over tax cuts to wealthy corporations and privatisation of public services.

Our current system has consistently encouraged profit-takers to take up the supply of public services. Decades of privatisation and cuts to public services were unfortunately highlighted during the pandemic. [6] Ireland has pivoted over the last few decades towards a more profit-oriented supply of basic public services such as housing, childcare, and healthcare. Our economy is highly dependent on Foreign Direct Investment, which puts us at risk of regulatory capture, at a time when we need public-led solutions to the problems in front of us. [7]   

According to a recent report published by Oxfam, job precarity, poverty and inequality soared during the pandemic, but so did the profits of billionaires. In Ireland alone, It is estimated that the wealth of billionaires increased by 58% to €49.7 billion. [8] Wealth inequality, and public policies that support the hoarding of wealth and resources by the wealthy few, is further fracturing universal access to basic public services. [9]

When asked what would you do to improve our welfare system so that the system is fairer for everyone 

  • 85% [1037] of respondents said making corporations pay more and stop avoiding paying corporate tax. 

Climate change 

Most of us care deeply about the environment we live in. After all, without fresh air, flowers, trees, rivers, and beaches – life would be pretty grim. Whether it’s a walk in our local park with a friend, or a fresh sea swim washing away our worries – most of us have felt the power of our natural environment to renew our wellbeing, and help us to thrive. 

Most communities want to protect our planet from harm, for ourselves and future generations. And most of us do what we can – we recycle, hop on the bus or train when we can, and those of us who can afford it add solar and wind energy to our household energy supplies. 

But, this government is putting the blame for climate change on us, when we have done the least to cause it. What’s worse is that they’re planning to push a ‘carbon tax’ on families and communities. All the while, letting those most responsible off the hook. 

Not only is this unfair, it won’t fix the problem. The climate crisis threatens to deepen existing inequalities. The rising cost of fuel has placed a disproportionate economic burden on those who are the least advantaged in our communities. As the impact of the climate crisis is only set to worsen, the government response must be one that centres communities who are already experiencing energy poverty and inequality. [10]

Simply put, our government’s policy should make the biggest polluters contribute the most towards the future we need to build. 

When asked what would you do to improve our welfare system so that we can protect the planet we live on, 

  • 88% [1040] want corporate power and big business pay their fair share of tax on business instead of consumers 
  • 85% [1018] want investment in affording public transport infrastructure


Most of us agree that everyone deserves to have a solid foundation from which we build our lives. Public housing built or bought by the public provides people and families with secure and affordable homes, and it also creates a public asset that will contribute to a more secure and flourishing society well into the future.

While the reality of homelessness figures officially registered is totally unacceptable, so too is the reality that hundreds and thousands are facing instability in our housing situations. It’s clear that the poor housing situation affects individuals and families, but what’s even more worrying is the knock-on effect this has on our communities as a collective. [11]

The private rental market and those who profit off it have done little to nothing to resolve the housing crisis and provide safety and security for families through decent housing. This system is held up through the likes of the rent supplement (HAP) scheme. Public housing, built and retained for the public can deliver on safe and affordable homes, and this can be achieved through well resourced local authorities.

Further to this, we can stabilise supply for public homes through the introduction of a ‘use it or lose it’ tax on vacant properties – potential homes that are left to dereliction and create bottlenecks – and put an end to the tax breaks for investor vulture funds buying up our homes. [12]  

No matter who we are or where we come from, 

  • 84% [997] of us would end tax breaks for investor funds to make sure everyone has a safe, affordable home 
  • 83% [984] of us would borrow at low interest rate so public homes can be built by public bodies 
  • 81% [970] of us would introduce a tax on vacant land or buildings to incentivise reparation and building. 


Even prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, our healthcare system was creaking following years of chronic underfunding and a privatisation agenda by successive governments. The pandemic has placed the hospital system, and those who work in hospital settings, under ferocious pressure – often creating unsafe environments for both staff and patients. What’s emerged clearly is that safe access to healthcare remains a huge obstacle. [9] When governments take into account the needs of everyone in society then they will deliver quality public services like healthcare, education, transport, childcare with full and equal access for all. 

Our current two-tier health system favours the patients who can afford to pay privately for healthcare, and further marginalises those in the public system seeking timely access to quality services. It’s a cruel system that deliberately favours those who can pay over those who are sick and in need of help. This inequality gap was dire long before the Covid-19 pandemic overran our hospitals. 

When private corporations take over, they run our services to extract the most profit possible – that is what for-profit companies have to do in order to increase shareholder value. They do that by charging us more, providing us with less, and often treating the people who work there badly, if they get to keep their jobs at all.

When healthcare is owned and run to serve everyone in our community, we get to ensure it delivers for the public good and for everyone, not a handful of wealthy shareholders. 

We asked people what they would do to improve access and affordability of healthcare for our communities:

  • 91% [1088] of respondents were clear that establishing 24/7 mental health services that are community-based and age appropriate was the top priority. 
  • 81% [1082] also agreed that valuing our healthcare staff with dignity, improving the working conditions of healthcare staff, including student nurses would aid the delivery of public healthcare 
  • 86% [1026] of respondents would like to see the creation of a single-tier healthcare system

Where do we go from here?

From the 1176 survey responses provided by Uplift members, it’s clear that many of the problems with our tax and social welfare system are intersectional. Our welfare system has a tangible impact on the day-to-day of our lives. The way in which we interact with this system can be shaped by experiences of relative inequality, whether that’s gender, ethnicity, ability, geography, or how these intersect with levels of poverty, unemployment, and income. [13]

Although these segments may seem unrelated, they can each have a knock-on effect on one another, meaning the different segments of the system are interrelated, and in many cases both amplify and reinforce one another. This has been well documented from sample responses, especially people who may rely on, for example, disability and housing services at the same time. 

What’s also clear is the level of frustration with the current system. People locked out of ever having a safe and secure home, people routinely unable to access healthcare when they need it, the biggest polluters of our communities and environments are not the ones who pay the price, and profits of large corporations who availed of welfare support during the pandemic fall out of scope. 

However, while the problems are intersectional, so too are the solutions. People who have safe and secure homes, a community and government who values and supports them, nutritious food and great education – are more likely to live happy, thriving lives, which in turn create happy, thriving communities. 

Uplift members would like to see a more just and equal delivery of healthcare, housing, childcare, education and transport. At the moment, there is a disproportionate disconnect between the high levels of tax people contribute, and their ability to access these services when needed. 

People have a clear idea of who is responsible, and what sort of action needs to be taken. In summary, they want: 

  1. A quality public healthcare system that works for everyone when they need it 
  2. Round-the-clock mental health services that are age-appropriate and community-based 
  3. Corporate power and big business pay significantly higher tax. 
  4. Corporate and big business to be heavily penalised as the main contributors to climate pollution 
  5. Ensure access to safe public housing by ending tax breaks for investor funds, public borrowing at a low interest rate and introducing a tax on vacant land or buildings to incentivise reparation and building. 
  6. Climate adapted free public transport
  7. Universal publicly funded childcare – new forms of social welfare that value socially useful work, particularly care – for example the Participation Income (see NESC2020). http://files.nesc.ie/nesc_reports/en/151_Future_Social_Welfare.pdf 
  8. Universal basic services that enable people to life with dignity and a degree of security
  9. Distribution of income through proggresive taxation – directed towards equality, universal public services and reducing income inequality



[1] https://impact.nuigalway.ie/news/pandemic-exposes-income-inequalities-in-irish-society/ & https://www.esri.ie/publications/all-in-this-together-new-and-enduring-forms-of-inequality-post-pandemic 

[2] https://www.focusireland.ie/focus-blog/why-we-need-an-inclusive-high-road-covid-era-back-to-work-strategy/ 

[3] https://nccwn.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/covid-19-ngo-group-joint-submission.pdf 

[4] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/spol.12548 

[5] https://politicalreform.ie/2021/03/12/irish-feminists-need-to-mobilise-for-a-post-pandemic-future-built-on-an-ethic-of-public-care/ 

[6] https://socialeurope.eu/renewing-welfare-through-universal-entitlement-lessons-from-covid-19 

[7] https://publicpolicy.ie/perspectives/build-forward-public-the-case-for-a-post-pandemic-housing-imaginary/

[8] https://www.oxfam.org/en/research/inequality-kills

[9] https://www.nerinstitute.net/blog/some-thoughts-wealth-tax 

[10] https://www.irishtimes.com/news/science/climate-crisis-threatens-to-deepen-inequality-in-ireland-1.4612077

[11] https://www.uplift.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/14930_Uplift_housing_report_WEB-1.pdf 

[12] https://www.irishexaminer.com/opinion/commentanalysis/arid-40781061.htmlhttps://my.uplift.ie/petitions/stop-investors-buying-our-homes & https://www.thejournal.ie/vulture-funds-petition-ireland-government-5566059-Oct2021/

[13] https://www.socialjustice.ie/article/healthcare-inequalities-persist-and-undermine-treatment-and-care 


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