Sometimes we are so focused on individual measures we do not take the time to step back and look at the big picture in terms of the economy, the amount of wealth that exists in the economy, who gets the benefit of that wealth, how it is distributed, and whether it is distributed fairly. The only opportunity to do that is during the Finance Bill, which is why I have tabled a series of amendments asking that the Government produce reports to get the information we need to examine these issues. Even with the sources available to me as the finance spokesperson for a small party with limited resources, I find the situation shocking.
When we discussed this yesterday, I noted that most people would be shocked to know that the net worth of Irish households currently stands at €740 billion. That is the net figure, after liabilities. If that was shared out equally, everyone would have €150,000 each. Of course, the truth is the vast majority of people have no savings at all and often owe more than they own.
That enormous wealth, which has been generated and increased dramatically over the past seven or eight years, is concentrated in the hands of a tiny group of people. It is not me saying this; the information is from the Central Bank's quarterly statistics, which show that 53% of the €740 billion of wealth I described is concentrated in the hands of 10% of the population. The top 5%, comprising 85,000 households, have roughly €3.26 million each, on average, which is incredible. Vast amounts of wealth are concentrated in the hands of an absolutely tiny group of people while the vast majority either owe more than they own or have no savings and struggle just to pay bills relating to childcare, mortgages or rent. They survive on meagre earnings.
Other figures that I do not have to hand - I do not believe the Minister of State disputes these because I spoke to him earlier as he has examined them - show the share of national income that goes to profits versus that which goes to wages. That has dramatically shifted in favour of profits over the past 20 or 30 years, more so in Ireland than in any other country in the western world. Far from there being a trickle-down of wealth as Ireland records some of the highest levels of economic growth anywhere in the western world, it is gushing upwards into the hands of a tiny group of people.
By means of these amendments, I am arguing that we need to address this and see it as a problem. Of course, it is a social problem. In the early 1970s, people in average jobs, if they had jobs, could hope to be able to afford a mortgage. Now, well-qualified people with jobs cannot do that. It is a real and tangible expression of this growing inequality in the distribution of wealth. People work really hard in jobs and qualify for skilled work but their earnings are not enough to be able to put an affordable roof over their heads. This arises because much of the real wealth in the economy is invested in property assets and these are rented back to the people who cannot afford them at an extortionate price. People are sitting on money and it is making more money for them; they are getting richer while, in real terms, ordinary workers are getting poorer.
It is in this context that we argue that there should be wealth taxes. This would help redistribute the fruits of large economic growth, and specifically the growth in household wealth, in a fairer way to the benefit of the majority and not just a super-wealthy minority.