Northern Ireland

Austerity creating 'more unequal NI society'

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The government has been urged to row back on austerity measures

Austerity measures are affecting Northern Ireland disproportionately and creating a more unequal society, a charity has said.

New research by Oxfam indicated that 22% of people are now living in poverty.

The charity said cuts were pushing vulnerable families to their limits.

Jim Clarken of Oxfam Ireland urged the UK government and NI Executive to "row back" on deep-cutting economic policies

"We are now facing hardships our grandparents faced," he said.

"Over the course of five years, £4bn in cuts will have been delivered in Northern Ireland - the biggest since World War II.

"Austerity measures, which are hitting women and young people particularly hard, are making Northern Ireland even more of an unequal society.

"The UK government's proposed welfare reforms will particularly disadvantage already vulnerable sectors of our community, such as those with disabilities and mental illness."

The charity's research suggested that 25% of those working in Northern Ireland do not even make a living wage.

It said the lowest earners have lost 38% of their disposable net income as a direct result of austerity policies.

Mr Clarken said the UK government policy does not work in Northern Ireland due to its special context as one of the UK's most disadvantaged regions and the high dependence on public spending.

He said the charity's new report offered fairer and more sustainable ways of financing "more progressive policies".

"There are alternatives to austerity," he said. "We're calling on the UK and NI governments to 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."

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