Published Wednesday, 15 January 2014
Oxfam Clarken (centre) launches Oxfam's report on austerity measures. (© Presseye)
Launching a new report at Stormont, Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken said that austerity measures have failed to bring promised economic growth - and instead youth and long-term unemployment and poverty are on the increase.
"Ordinary families in Northern Ireland are being pushed to their very limits as we enter a fourth year of austerity," he said.
"Unemployment is at 7.5%, women's unemployment currently stands at a 25-year high and youth unemployment is at 23.8%. Of those in employment, 25% don't even make a living wage, with the lowest earners having lost 38% of their disposable net income as a direct result of austerity policies."
Mr Clarken said the £4bn reduction in Northern Ireland spending is the biggest since World War II.
In the region the number of people living in poverty now stands at 22%.
As an economic remedy, the austerity medicine is not working. Harsh austerity policies are a failure - a medicine that sought to cure the disease by killing the patient.
Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland
He added that deep-cutting welfare reforms will particularly disadvantage already vulnerable sectors of the community, such as those with disabilities and mental illness.
Mr Clarken highlighted that the UK government's 'one size fits all' austerity measures were impacting disproportionately on Northern Ireland and that its special context as one of the UK's most disadvantaged regions and its high dependence on public spending should be recognised and factored into an alternative policy approach.
"There are alternatives to austerity. We're calling on the Northern Ireland Executive and the UK government to row back on deep-cutting economic policies and instead champion a new economic and social model that invests in people and pursues fair taxation.
"Governments could raise billions for public services, such as health and education, by increasing tax on the wealthiest, and also cracking down on tax loopholes and avoidance schemes."
The Oxfam report warns that if the UK and the rest of Europe continue along the path of austerity policies it will drag between 15 and 25 million more people into poverty in Europe by 2025.
Mr Clarken continued: "Austerity policies across Europe are actually benefiting the richest 10% of Europeans while forcing millions of ordinary people into poverty.
"Ahead of next week's World Economic Forum in Switzerland, policy-makers would do well to consider how austerity is exacerbating poverty levels and entrenching inequality. In other words, the richer are taking more, whilst the poor are taking less."
© UTV News