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10,000 more people out of work for a year or more - Latest Live Register Data

A total of 657,076 people were either on the live register or in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) in the last week of January 2021 according to the latest release by the CSO. While we know the latest round of restrictions is responsible for the increase in numbers in receipt of the PUP, the number on the Live Register also increased by almost 4,800 in the year to January 2021. So what’s going on?

Overall, men continue to account for the majority of those on the Live Register, with 106,259 of the 188,543 men and 82,284 women. More than two out of every five people on the Live Register were registered for one year or more, as the proportion of men in this category (44 per cent of all men on the Live Register) being higher than the proportion of women (38 per cent). While the number of people registered for less than one year has decreased by 5,145 in the year to January 2021, there was an increase of 9,933 in the numbers registered for a year or more during the same period. This is concerning, particularly as the relatively low level of corporate insolvencies in 2020 has been attributed in part to the closure of the courts and the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (previously the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme) keeping many small businesses afloat for now [1]. More is set to come.

A summary of flows on and off the Live Register shows that July 2020 saw the highest number of people joining the Register (44,330) for the year, whereas August had the highest number who left (39,669). This may be attributable to the fact that the PUP was due to close on the 10th August 2020 but was extended to September under the July Stimulus announced on the 23rd July 2020.

There were 39,957 casual and part-time workers on the Live Register in January 2021. The number had been holding steady, at around 36,500, since mid-2019, however October 2020 saw a surge of casual and part-time workers, with an additional 5,126 joining that month (compared to a decrease of 162 workers in this category in October 2019). The timing of this increase coincides with the announcement of a six week period of Level 5 restrictions, announced on the 19th October 2020 and extending to the pre-Christmas period, a period where, traditionally, casual and part-time labour is in greatest demand.

In addition to the Live Register figures, 41,107 people were on jobs activation programmes including Back to Work Schemes, Back to Education courses, Community Employment Scheme and so on in December 2020. This is a reduction from 48,555 the previous year and is primarily a result of a reduction in participants on the Back to Work Enterprise allowance scheme – self-employed strand and the TUS Community Work placement Initiative (2011).

What is emerging from the latest data is that, notwithstanding the disaggregation of Live Register data from pandemic-specific payments, the shift in work patterns caused by the pandemic will have longer-term consequences for many workers. A key tenet of any new Social Contract must be to provide a Vibrant Economy. Decent work – work which is sustainable and that provides a wage capable of ensuring a reasonable standard of living – must form part of that Vibrant Economy.

[1] Business Barometer - Irish and UK Company Information - Vision-Net (vision-net.ie)

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