The gap in earnings between the highest and the lowest paid in Ireland is widening.

A report issued by independent think tank TASC examines the distribution of wealth and income in Ireland.

The 'Hierarchy Of Earning Attributes and Privilege' report was jointly commissioned and published by TASC and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

Prof Terry McDonagh of NUIG, one of the authors of the report, said the widening of the gap between the better off and those on lower incomes is a result of the Government not applying the resources that were available during the 'Celtic Tiger' period.

The report also found that 20% of people in the country are living in households where the combined income is less than €20,000.

TASC is an independent think-tank dedicated to combating Ireland’s high level of economic inequality and ensuring that public policy has equality at its core.

Meanwhile, he head of 'An Bord Snip Nua', Colm McCarthy, has said that living standards must drop back to the levels in 2004 or 2005.

The Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure was addressing the Oireachtas committee on Finance and the public service.

Senator Fergal Quinn had asked, if the Government achieved cuts of €4bn in the budget, how much of a drop in living standards that would involve.