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Unemployment

It is concerning the new Programme for Government does not mention youth unemployment or a strategy to tackle it, particularly given the manner in which young people will likely be disproportionately affected by unemployment as the economy recovers from Covid-19. 

Last week, the CSO published the Live Register data, showing 513,350 people in receipt of some form of welfare support.  An estimated 492,000 workers in Ireland may lose thier jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic alone.  Approximately one in five of all employed.  The worst affected sectors are retail, hospitality, recreation, non-essential manufacturing and construction sectors.  Many of these jobs are defined by instances of low-pay and precarity.  Short-term income supports are welcome as we get through this crisis, however long-term measures are required to sustain these sectors.

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) today published data in respect of the Live Register showing a combined total of 513,350 for those on the Live Register and those in receipt of COVID-19 Related Payments.  While over half of these people are in receipt of the COVID-19 payments, there is a significant rise in those on the Live Register (and not in receipt of a COVID-19 Related Payment) for less than one year.  This highlights the need to provide Decent Work as a key tenet of any new Social Contract and the need to recognise that the term "work" is not synonymous with a job.

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.

Has the fall in long-term unemployment numbers plateaued? If so, a more targeted approach may be required to get us back to the low levels of the 2000s.

Under-employment seems to have stopped falling. Yet at over 100,000 people it remains high and 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 government would like us to believe and these under-employed people could, along with some other categories, conceivably swell real unemployment numbers by almost 170%.

Budget 2019 was an opportunity to fix, or begin to fix, many of the unjust policy moves implemented during the financial crisis. Several policy changes were enacted during that time which were arbitrary in nature: unfair, unjustifiable, and purely for the purpose of saving money. Reducing Jobseeker's rates for young people was one of these.

With significant resources available in Budget 2019, it is time to address an unjustifiable discrimination against younger people. The rate of severe deprivation among 18-24 year olds increased twice as fast as it did for the general population between 2007 and 2015. Removing the tiered approach to Jobseekers Allowance would help to reverse this.

The Government’s new Pensions plan has missed the opportunity to provide a Universal Pension as a basic right to all citizens. It has also failed to address major issues around equity, sustainability and bureaucracy that have underpinned Ireland’s pension system for generations. Read Social Justice Ireland's new report: A Universal State Social Welfare Pension.

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