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Policy issues concerning Work

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.

What are the ten trends shaping the future of work?  How are these trends transforming what people do for a living; how they do it; what skills they need; where they perform their work; how work relations are structured; and how work is organised, distributed and rewarded?

Behind the headline jobs numbers, trends in Ireland's labour force participation tell some interesting stories.

The work of Ireland’s carers receives minimal recognition despite the essential role their work plays in society.   It is time that Government allocate sufficient resources to supporting the work of carers in Ireland.

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