Policy and Advocacy

Budget 2023 can advance gender justice through supporting care work

The COVID-19 crisis has shown that care work, often unpaid, is the “hidden engine” that keeps the wheels of our economies, businesses and societies turning.  It is driven primarily by women and girls who often have little or no time to earn a decent living, to get involved in their communities or have a say in how their societies are run- Eurostat data shows that the share of women in Ireland outside the labour market due to caring responsibilities remains almost double the EU average.

Care work continues to provide a foundation for our society and economy as we manage the aftermath of the pandemic, the economic and social consequences of the invasion of Ukraine and the impact of spiralling inflation. Care work (paid and unpaid) in Ireland and around the world is highly gendered and undervalued in terms of pay and recognition. Many workers in the care sector are still paid poverty wages.  Irish women spend 38 million hours a week on unpaid care work, contributing at least €24 billion to the economy every year – the equivalent of 12.3 percent of the entire annual Irish economy. Globally, women do more than three-quarters of all unpaid care work. Women and girls are putting in 12.5 billion hours of unpaid care work every day, which amounts to a contribution to the global economy of at least $10.8 trillion a year – more than three times the size of the global tech industry. 

Care work highlights the important role of low-wage workers in terms of the provision of essential goods and services. Most importantly, the COVID 19 pandemic has emphasised the hugely important role women play in our economy, despite the unequal rewards and recognition they receive. A study of essential workers by the ERSI has found that the majority (almost 70 percent) of essential employees in Ireland are female. This trend is replicated worldwide, with more than 70 percent of healthcare workers worldwide being female. 

Provision of care services (e.g. childcare, or care for the elderly or people with special needs) by the Irish State is relatively low, forcing households to provide these services themselves, or pay for them – if they can afford it. Oxfam Ireland supports the National Women’s Council’s proposal in their pre-budget submission that:

“The most effective and efficient way to tackle persistent gender inequalities in care is sustained investment in public services and social infrastructure, including a public early years and school age childcare system and universal adult social care. Investment in care has been shown to act as a better post-pandemic economic stimulus than investment in traditional economic recovery approaches, such as construction. Producing significantly less emissions than construction, care jobs are also green jobs so investment in care also helps us meet our climate goals.”

Using the report of the Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality, with its strong emphasis on care, as a framework to guide Budget 2023 investment, the Irish Government should:

  • Ensure significant extra investments in public services and social infrastructure to enhance care services and resource a ‘Commission on Care’ as outlined in the Programme for Government. For example, investment must be increased in early years education to bring overall expenditure in line with the UNICEF recommendation of one percent of GDP.
  • Ensure care workers employed or funded by State programmes are properly compensated to at least a living-wage level.
  • Hold a referendum on Art. 41.2 of the Constitution on the role of women in the home, as recommended by Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality. New language in the constitution should refer explicitly to gender equality and non-discrimination and recognise the value of care work in Irish society.
  • Deliver integrated changes in social and employment policies that support carers, facilitate the combination of care and employment, while at the same time encourage and support greater male participation in care. 
  • Prioritise gender budgeting: Gender budgeting must be prioritised by the Government to assess the possible impact of fiscal and spending decisions on women and girls and enable the collection and allocation of national and international funds in ways that promote gender equality.
  • Develop and properly resource the Equality Budgeting process beyond the current pilot stage to include all dimensions of inequality, including poverty, socioeconomic inequality and disability.

For more details of how Budget 2023 can contribute to addressing inequality, ending poverty and creating a more sustainable world please see our pre-budget submission HERE

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Irish Refugee Protection programme

More resources for the Irish Refugee Protection Programme in Budget 2023 can help transforms Lives and help Ireland keep its promises to resettle Syrian and Eritrean refugees

Oxfam Ireland have asked the government to give more resources to the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (within the Department of Children Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth) in Budget 2023. Ireland has made pledges with the UNHCR to resettle 2,900 refugees between 2020 and 2023 and the Irish Refugee Protection Programme needs resources and personnel to help make this happen.

What is refugee resettlement?

The selection and transfer of refugees from one country (in this case Jordan, Lebanon, Ethiopia) where they have sought international protection to a third state (in this case, Ireland) which has agreed to admit them as refugees with permanent residence status. A resettled refugee has rights similar or equal to an Irish national.

How does it work?

Resettlement begins with the UNHCR (the UN refugee agency). UNHCR identifies, interviews and submits refugee cases to countries for consideration. Then, Irish agencies and departments work with UN resettlement services to process cases, do health assessments etc. An Gárda Síochána conduct security checks on each refugee to be resettled to Ireland. Officials from the Irish Refugee Protection Programme along with Gardaí travel to the host country and deliver presentations on life in Ireland. Selected refugees have already been granted refugee status having had their cases assessed by UNHCR in Lebanon/ Jordan / Ethiopia.

Why is Oxfam Ireland asking the Irish government to increase resources for refugee resettlement in Budget 2023?

As an organisation working globally on humanitarian and crisis situations, Oxfam Ireland has highlighted the importance of Ireland upholding its commitment to receive and protect refugees and displaced people from all countries and regions seeking protection without discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity or nationality. Ireland should ensure that it meets its pledges to resettle Syrian and Eritrean refugees. These resettlement pledges are a vital lifeline to people left languishing in impossible conditions in camps and must be met.

Refugee resettlement to Ireland has been very successful and changed the lives of people who had been stuck in traumatising situations. The Irish Refugee Council called it “a shining example of the moral leadership Ireland can show in transforming the lives of those in desperate need of international protection”. The report ‘Voice Of Syrians-Resettled Refugees in Ireland' published by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth concluded that “Syrian refugees have much to offer to Ireland, are committed to the future of their families in Ireland and look forward to the supports which can increase their independence and capacity to contribute to wider society.” While there is room for improvement (for example in provision of English language supports) this is a programme that works well and transforms lives.

What about housing and Ukrainian refugees?

The lack of housing (especially suitable and affordable housing) is a problem for many people in Ireland including vulnerable groups and refugees. The government needs to implement a cross-departmental plan to address this, in conjunction and consultation with civil society organisations with relevant expertise and lived experience.

Tragically, conflict and persecution are not going away and the government needs to plan for long term accommodation needs instead of reacting in crisis mode. Increasing the resources of the IRPP is a step towards this.

Ireland is a rich country. It’s important to remember that over 80% of the refugees in the world are hosted by low and middle income countries. In Lebanon (from where Ireland have pledged to resettle Syrian refugees), 9 out of 10 Syrian refugees live in extreme poverty and half of the refugee population is food insecure. In Ethiopia, eruptions of conflict and insecurity have disrupted Eritrean refugees’ access to food, water and medicine.

Oxfam Ireland welcomed the Irish government’s support to people fleeing Ukraine and its commitment to finding solutions to ensure Ireland meets its international protection responsibilities, accommodation challenges notwithstanding. We cannot break promises made to African and Middle Eastern refugees because we are accommodating European refugees. The Irish public recognise the Equal Right to Refuge as the Irish Times’ poll last week found that a clear majority of Irish people, 66 per cent, disagree with the government’s policy of treating refugees from Ukraine differently to any other refugees.

What pledges has the Irish government made?

In December 2019, the Irish government committed to a new phase of the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP), to increase annual resettlement quota by 50 each year over 4 years: 650 in 2020, 700 in 2021, 750 in 2022 and 800 in 2023. Ireland has pledged with the UNHCR to resettle 2,900 refugees between 2020 and 2023. The arrivals for the first two years to largely comprise Syrian refugees resident in Jordan and Lebanon, along with a pilot group of 150 Eritrean refugees resident in Ethiopia.

In 2020 and 2021, the number of resettlement departures to Ireland dipped to 195 and 92 respectively, due to the covid-19 associated challenges. The IRPP have been making trips to Lebanon and working to meet pledges but will need appropriate resources and personnel to do so.

Oxfam Ireland Budget ask:

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) projects that more than 2 million refugees will be in need of resettlement in 2023. This is a 36% increase from 2022, due in part to the humanitarian impacts of the ongoing covid pandemic and the new mass displacement situations of the past year. Safe return home is not a viable option for many refugees as conflicts continue. Resettlement is a vital protection tool. Of the estimated 1.4 million refugees in need of resettlement in 2021 – including children and adolescents, survivors of torture and violence, and older people – 57,500 were given homes in new countries. Only 4 % of the total requiring resettlement. Ireland can play a role in resettling refugees.

The resources allocated to the IRPP within the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth must reflect this increase as well as the increase in resettlement need globally and the pledges that Ireland has made.

Increase resources and personnel to the IRPP to ensure that Ireland meet its resettlement pledges.

 

For more details of how Budget 2023 can contribute to addressing inequality, ending poverty and creating a more sustainable world please see our pre-budget submission.

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How Budget 2023 Can Help Address Global Health Inequities

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a huge regression in the development of health systems around the world. On top of this, COVID-19 is still taking many lives on a weekly basis. This is most evident in low-income countries, where only 20% of people are fully vaccinated and less than 1% of people are boosted. Millions of people have died since the emergence of the Omicron variant, and the majority of these deaths have been in low- and middle-income countries.

The Irish government’s recent failure to support a true TRIPS waiver, despite support for it from the Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the Seanad and the majority of the Irish public, will exacerbate the situation. One of the main stated reasons for the government’s lack of support was the need for more focus on ‘getting the vaccines into people's arms’. However, the Irish government has not contributed its fair share to the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator; one of the main means of strengthening health systems’ response to COVID-19 and improving vaccination rates. The ACT Accelerator has been seeking to address many of the challenges faced by low-income countries trying to increase the number of vaccinations. However, it has faced large shortfalls in funding. The fair share of funding from Ireland in 2022 was approximately €190 million, yet Ireland has only contributed €10.7 million of this, which represents less than 6% of Ireland’s fair share.[1] Ireland’s fair contribution is part of a global call for of US$16.8 billion for the ACT Accelerator, and is based on the Ireland’s wealth level along with the potential for economic recovery post-COVID-19.

The ACT-A is set to transition organisationally in the coming months. However, the need to support health systems strengthening and vaccination uptake remains. Therefore, Ireland must increases its funding towards global COVID-19 vaccination efforts in Budget 2023 to address vaccine inequity and help save millions of lives. This could be achieved through additional funding to the WHO or through Ireland’s partnerships with countries with low-vaccination rates such as Tanzania (7% double vaccinated), Sierra Leone (23%) and Ethiopia (32%).[2] The funding could be devoted to several areas, including service delivery, cold chain equipment, knowledge management, monitoring and surveillance, and/or vaccine hesitancy. It should be noted that because COVID-19 has had such a huge negative impact on health system strengthening, it is vital that this increased funding is not at the expense of existing aid budgets.

Another way in which the Irish government can mitigate the recent World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreement on COVID-19 vaccinations is by pushing the EU to support an extension to the scope of this WTO agreement, to partially waive intellectual property rights for COVID-19 diagnostics and medicines. This is set to be considered by the WTO in the next three months. In countries with low vaccination rates, medicines and diagnostics are even more vital as the virus is more likely to transmit and it is more likely to lead to severe disease and death among vulnerable groups who are unvaccinated.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that it is vital that efforts to strengthen health systems in low-income countries. This should include increased staffing, improved healthcare infrastructure, greater access to equipment, user fee reduction/removal, and improved social supports for patients. As an example of the level of need, in 2018 only four countries, of the 47 countries in the WHO African region, had reached or exceeded the Sustainable Development Goal threshold of 4.45 doctors, nurses and midwives per 1000 population. In Ireland, where there is widespread acceptance that there are major healthcare workforce shortages, there are 16.4 doctors, nurses and midwives per 1000 population. In Mozambique, Tanzania and Sierra Leone, countries that Ireland has partnerships with, there is a density of less than one healthcare worker per 1,000 population. Here, there is a clear need for massive increases in the health workforce to provide wide access to safe healthcare. Through their partnerships, Ireland should increase funding to support recruitment of healthcare workers to meet the SDG goal of 4.45 doctors, nurses and midwives per 1000 population.

Overall, Ireland needs to increase its ODA, and in particular its ODA spend on health. In 2020, Ireland devoted only 0.04% of GNI to health ODA, and health only formed 14% of the overall Irish ODA budget. The Commission of the World Health Organization recommends that 0.1% of GDP should be devoted to funding for global health. The Irish government must meet this goal by increasing its funding for global health to 0.1% of GNI[3] by 2030. To achieve this, the Irish government must increase funding for global health by €30 million in 2023.

  • Ensure Ireland increases its funding towards global COVID-19 vaccination efforts to make up for Ireland’s shortfalls in contributions to the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator.
  • Advocate that the EU supports an extension to the scope of the recent WTO agreement on COVID-19 vaccines, to partially waive intellectual property rights for COVID-19 diagnostics and medicines.
  • Increase funding for global health by €30 million in 2023 with a view to increasing it further from 0.04% of GNI to 0.1% of GNI by 2030, as recommended by the WHO.

For more details of how Budget 2023 can contribute to addressing inequality, ending poverty and creating a more sustainable world please see our pre-budget submission.

[1] ACT-A consultant, personal communication, 23 June 2022

[2]Our World in Data. (2022) Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccinations. Available at: https://ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations (Accessed: 14 July 2022)

[3]GNI is being used because GDP has a falsely inflated value which provides a misleading picture of the Irish economy

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Budget 2023 must be a climate justice budget

The devastating impacts of climate change are being felt everywhere and are having very real consequences on people’s lives, especially in the world’s poorest countries. It is affecting many of the communities Oxfam works with, undermining their livelihoods through gradual, insidious changes in temperature and rainfall patterns, and increasing the frequency and/or intensity of hazards such as floods and droughts. Vulnerability to disaster and climate breakdown matters because it perpetuates and deepens poverty and suffering. It stands in the way of people – particularly women – being able to enjoy their basic rights and reduces their chances of ever being able to attain them.

The most important thing Ireland can do to help mitigate this is to fully implement its commitments in the Paris Agreement to keep global warming below 1.5C. In implementing effective climate action, the Irish government needs to confront extreme carbon inequality in Ireland in Budget 2023. To achieve climate justice those most responsible for causing climate change, both in Ireland and around the world, have the most responsibility for addressing this issue. To do this, Ireland must implement measures targeting excessive and luxury emissions, ending subsidies for high emitting sectors and implementing a comprehensive just transition process to support those most impacted by the transition to a post-carbon future.  

As well as reducing carbon emissions at home, richer countries like Ireland should provide sufficient climate finance to ensure that nations most impacted by climate breakdown have adequate resources to implement necessary adaption and mitigation measures. Oxfam Ireland believes that Budget 2023 needs to increase the quantity and quality of climate finance to nations in the Global South who are facing the brunt of the planetary emergency. Not only are those nations of the Global South the least responsible for causing climate breakdown, but in historical terms, vast inequalities persist in who contributes to current emissions, both internationally and within Ireland.

Oxfam Ireland fully concurs with the Dóchas Budget 2023 submission which states: 

“It is estimated that Ireland’s fair share of climate finance allocations under the UNFCC would be between €340m to €840m per year taking past emissions and wealth into account” based on calculations by the Overseas Development Institute which state that Ireland is only paying 25%-50% of its fair share. Therefore, Oxfam Ireland agrees that Ireland needs to deliver and move beyond its target of €225m per annum of climate finance as a matter of urgency.

Furthermore, Oxfam Ireland believes that the Irish Government needs to demonstrate the effectiveness and uniqueness of its climate finance by providing increased accountability and visibility of this finance’s effectiveness and ‘additionality’. In terms of additionality, Ireland ranked poorly in a recent comparative analysis by CARE International, as Ireland provided “no strongly additional climate finance”. As has also been stated by Dóchas in its submission, all climate finance funding must be demonstrated to be new and additional to any future increases in ODA as per Ireland’s obligations under the UNFCCC, and there should be full transparency in this regard.  It is vital that Ireland:

  • Ensure climate action addresses extreme carbon inequality by targeting excessive and luxury emissions, ending subsidies for high emitting sectors and implementing a comprehensive just transition process to support those most impacted by the transition to a post-carbon future.
  • Increase Ireland’s climate finance contribution to ensure that Ireland is contributing its fair share.
  • Ensure climate finance provides additional resources that transparently (through detailed reporting of outcomes) contribute to outcomes to support those most vulnerable to climate breakdown.

For more details of how Budget 2023 can contribute to addressing inequality, ending poverty and creating a more sustainable world please see our pre-budget submission HERE

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How budget 2023 can help tackle low income countries’ fiscal and debt crisis

The economic hit to low-income countries due to the ongoing fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine is being exacerbated by the rapid onset of climate breakdown. It is creating rapidly worsening debt distress and fiscal conditions in many low- and middle-income countries while citizens face severe inflationary pressures. Yet 87 percent of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) COVID-19 loans are requiring developing countries to adopt tough, new austerity measures that will further exacerbate poverty and inequality- a policy that has been recognised as counter-productive by the IMF, the EU, and UNCTAD.

$650 billion-worth of Special Drawing Rights (SDR) were issued by the IMF in August 2021, as an easily accessible form of finance or cash for countries struggling with the global crisis. However, these were distributed according to quotas rather than needs, in line with IMF rules. This means that $400 billion went to high-income countries, $230 billion to middle-income countries, and just $21 billion to low-income countries, despite the tremendous needs of low-income countries. Going a little way to make up for that inequity, G20 countries committed to reallocating $100 billion of their share back to low-income countries. Seven months later, we have still only seen firm pledges of $36 billion. Ireland has received $4.69 billion in Special Drawing Rights (SDRs).

In Budget 2023 Ireland should set an example by reallocating 100% of its $4.69 billion allocation of IMF Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) to countries most in need. This could be done bilaterally, through conversion into hard currency, to low and middle-income countries in Africa and Asia which are most food insecure, or else multilaterally through a vehicle which strictly avoids conditionality and is concessional. Although barriers have been advanced to the reallocation of SDRs, such as to the ‘lending’ of them by the European Central Bank, we believe that what is most absent is the political will to effectively reallocate these much-needed emergency funds. This is where Ireland can provide global leadership. Our co-signed Civil Society Organisations’ Principles for Fair Channelling of Special Drawing Rights should be followed. Such transfers should come with no economic policy conditionality nor sectoral bias and, if they cannot be grant-based, they should have extremely low-interest rates and extended horizons and grace periods. Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) rechannelling should not be eligible to be counted as ODA. SDRs do not represent a real donor effort and cannot be used in the same manner as other financial transfers. Also, their character and quality does not align with the requirements of ODA and, thus, should not be counted as such.

Rising interest rates in rich nations are fuelling the debt crisis, with many of the world’s poorest countries facing default or crippling repayments. Debt servicing for the world’s poorest countries is estimated at $43 billion in 2022. In January this year, the World Bank estimated that 33 countries were already “in” or at “high” risk of debt distress. In 2021, debt represented 171% of all spending on healthcare, education and social protection combined for low- income countries.[1] The global response to this impending debt crisis has been a series of half measures. The international financial institutions lent more money, adding on to existing debt burdens and the G20 offered a partial bilateral debt payment suspension that kicked the can down the road; This money being used to service debt is precious – money needed to afford soaring food import bills and ongoing COVID-19 responses, let alone investments in an equitable and sustainable future.

 

Ireland should support immediate and unconditional cancelation of all unpayable debts to poorer countries. The two main debt initiatives driven by the international community – the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) and the Common Framework – have proven largely ineffective. Ireland must prioritize the debt agenda and support initiatives to cancel all debt payments in 2022 and 2023 to bilateral creditors, and multilateral institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank for all low and lower-middle-income countries that require it. It should also support efforts to immediately suspend debt service for countries applying to the Common Framework and to establish a new debt relief process which addresses its failures, particularly ensuring private sector participation. Cancelling debt payments is the fastest way to keep money in countries and to free up resources to tackle the urgent health, social and economic crises.

Support initiatives aimed at creating additional finance flows including the reallocation of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) to those countries most in need.
Support immediate cancellation of 2022 and 2023 debt and interest payments for all low and middle-income countries that require it.

For more details of how Budget 2023 can contribute to addressing inequality, ending poverty and creating a more sustainable world please see our pre-budget submission

[1]A Nordic Solution to the New Debt Crisis, Matthew Martin for Norwegian Church Aid, forthcoming.

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