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Employment

Technological change is coming whether we like it or not.  The question is are we doing enough to prepare for it?  More specifically are we doing enough to support those workers who will be most impacted by the changes that are on the horizon?

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

In the Sustainability edition of our National Social Monitor,  we assess whether current policy on sustainability encompasses the three pillars of environment, society and economy and make proposals on how to transition towards a sustainable future. 

Under-employment remains high at 113,000. This spare economic capacity might, at a practical level, mean that thousands are struggling financially. It also suggests that we are further from full employment than first glances at headline numbers would have us believe. These people could, along with some other categories, conceivably swell true unemployment numbers by more than 180%.

The negative impact on rural towns and communities from the potential fallout from Brexit is receiving welcome attention at present.  But what about the other threat to rural Ireland and regional development - the impact that automation and robotics will have on employment across the regions?  This issue should be front and centre as Government rolls out the Climate Action Plan and the National Development Plan.

The Living Wage for 2019 has been set at €12.30 per hour, an increase of 40 cents in the 12 months. This is being driven mainly by the rising cost of accommodation in Ireland. It is time Government got a handle on the housing crisis, and set a timeframe to move the National Minimum Wage in the direction of Living Wage.

Employment numbers have been a major “good news story” in Ireland’s economic recovery and Budget 2020 is an opportunity to take steps to ensure these positive trends continue. Social Justice Ireland has, in our recently launched Budget Choices 2020 submission, identified a number of areas for investment.

While we welcome the fall in the proportion of employees earning the minimum wage or lower, the fact is that despite very welcome increases in the NMW in the last few years, it remains about 18 per cent below the living wage. It is long past time that government set a five-year timeframe to close the gap between the National Minimum Wage and the living wage, and implement a system of Refundable Tax Credits in Budget 2020 to help mitigate the issue of in-work poverty.

Work and a job are not always the same thing.  Work is far more than just paid employment, and with this in mind it is time to develop policies that ensure all forms of work are supported, valued and recognised.

The headline social inclusion targets addressed in the Irish National Reform Programme are focussed on employment, education and ‘poverty and social exclusion’.  How is Ireland performing on the social inclusion aspects of our National Reform Programme and our Europe 2020 targets?

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