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Long-term unemployment crisis and precarious employment problematic

  • There are 272,000 fewer full-time jobs in Ireland today compared to 2007 (-15%).
  • The number of people in part-time jobs is 55,700 higher than in 2007 (+14%).
  • More than a quarter (115,500) of part-time workers are underemployed.
  • Between 2010 and end-2014 the number long-term unemployed fell by 48,700.
  • But, in the same period the net loss of Irish people to emigration was 123,800.
  • 58% of those unemployed are long-term unemployed (more than one year).

The recession has left Ireland with a deep long-term unemployment crisis and a growing number of people in precarious employment according to Social Justice Ireland‘s latest Policy Briefing.  These two developments are having huge negative impacts on the wellbeing of individuals and families and communities.

The Policy Briefing, titled ‘Work, Jobs and Unemployment’ shows that long-term unemployment has fallen by 48,700 since 2010 but still makes up 58% of the total number of people unemployed. The Briefing also shows that the net loss of Irish people to emigration over the period since 2010 was 123,800.   Long-term unemployment is at record levels as a proportion of those who are unemployed but it would be a great deal worse if fewer people had emigrated.

The key problem is that those seeking jobs far outnumber the jobs available.

A further problem highlighted in the Policy Briefing is the growth of various forms of precarious employment in recent years.  Since 2007 employment has fallen by 10 per cent; but this figure masks a bigger decline in full-time employment (15 per cent) and a growth in part-time employment (+14 per cent).

Among those part-time employed there has also been an increase in the numbers of people who are underemployed, that is working part-time but at less hours than individuals are willing to work. By the end of 2014 the numbers underemployed stood at 115,500 people, more than one-quarter of all part-time workers.

While an element of these figures can be explained by the recession, and the suppressed levels of activity in some sectors, they also suggest the emergence of a greater number of workers in precarious employment situations. The growth in the number of individuals with less work hours than ideal, as well as those with persistent uncertainties on the number of hours and the times they are required for work, is a major labour market challenge according to the Briefing.

Aside from the impact this has on the well-being of individuals and their families, the Briefing points out that it also impacts on their financial situation and adds to the working-poor challenges. But it goes beyond these issues as there are also impacts on the state given that Family Income Supplement (FIS) and the structure of jobseeker payments tends to lead to Government subsidising these families incomes; and indirectly subsidising some employers who create persistent precarious work patterns for their employees.

Social Justice Ireland’s policy proposals to address these and related challenges are spelt out on page 7 of the Policy Briefing.  They include proposals for a major investment programme to strengthen social infrastructure; further resourcing the upskilling of those who are unemployed or at risk of becoming unemployed; and, at a policy level, recognising all meaningful work and not just paid employment.  The Briefing also sets out proposals focused specifically on addressing rural unemployment.

The full text of the Policy Briefing on Work, Jobs and Unemployment may be accessed here.