You are here

Policy issues concerning Work

Budget 2022 needs to prepare Irish society for the inevitable social and public policy challenges that are likely to appear as the pandemic subsides. Among the most visible of these will be challenges associated with work, unemployment and job creation.

The CSO have released the latest in their Sustainable Development Goal Series.  SDG Goal 8 seeks to promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all. The CSO monitor and report on Ireland’s progress in achieving these targets, in this case, using 12 targets and 16 indicators as set out by the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from the United Nations (UN).  

Unemployment could exceed 390,000 according to the latest Social Justice Ireland Employment Monitor. That’s an unemployment rate of 16.1 per cent of the labour force. This would be the highest rate of unemployment since 1986, higher than 2012 at the height of the last recession.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought enormous uncertainty to the Irish labour market and consequently to many families throughout the country. As this article outlines, the pandemic’s labour market impact has been uneven, in particular when judged across age groups, genders and sectors of employment. Furthermore, the uncertainty remains and many of the challenges will only truly reveal themselves as the pandemic’s disruption recedes.

Earlier this year, the Government announced that income tax revenues for 2020 were only down 1 per cent compared to 2019. Preliminary estimates for Q4 2020, set out in the latest CSO release in their Earnings and Labour Costs series, show unadjusted average earnings up 5.5 per cent on the previous year to €844.98 per week or €25.56 per hour. But these announcements are not cause for celebration, they provide further evidence that Covid-19 has disproportionately affected lower earners.


A new report on ‘Digital automation and the future of work’ examines the nature, scope and possible effects of digital automation in the EU.  It identifies threats to job quality and an unequal distribution of the risks and benefits associated with digital automation. It also offers some policy options that, if implemented, would help to harness technology for positive economic and social ends. Overall, the report pushes for a new Digital Social Contract and a future of work that works for all.

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?


Covid-19 has highlighted things that are profoundly amiss with our Social Contract.  Once the pandemic has been addressed successfully it is crucial that we face up to the radical reforms that are required if we are to deliver a new social contract based on the principles of justice and fairness, with sustainability at its core.

The COVID-19 crisis has changed how we live our lives and, in many ways, served to highlight inefficiencies or flaws in how we have structured our society or how we conduct our business. The pandemic and subsequent lockdown has also caused many of us to re-evaluate our perspectives on how society operates, and given us new found respect for certain professions and industries. Here are some lessons we hope that policymakers have learned from this current situation.

Many well-known clothing brands and retailers have responded to the COVID-19 crisis by cancelling orders, or by demanding retroactive price reductions for goods already in production or completed. This is leading to large-scale dismissals of garment workers in developing countries, and to the inability of many companies in these countries to pay their workers. Many of these workers already work for low wages in poor conditions. With little or no social protection, this loss of income leaves garment workers and their families in an incredibly vulnerable position.

Pages