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Unemployment

Employment Monitor is a briefing from Social Justice Ireland examining Ireland’s employment situation, including employment numbers, significant labour market trends, and other aspects of the macroeconomy. The purpose is to highlight selected trends and make recommendations with a focus on the policy goals of increasing employment, providing better working conditions, and creating a more just economic model and a fairer society.

In this issue we look at the impact of Covid-19 on employment in Ireland and, for those who do not expect to return to their previous job post-pandemic, the impact on unemployment in the coming years.

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.

Annex 4 accompanies chapter 5 'Work' in Social Justice Matters: 2021 guide to a fairer Irish Society.  


The jobs crisis precipitated by the Covid-19 health crisis looks set to be felt for years to come, with a recovery not expected until after 2021.  There is a real danger that this jobs crisis will lead to an increase in poverty and exacerbate existing inequalities.  The plan for Resilience and Recovery, the National Economic Plan and Budget 2021 must ensure that the jobs crisis we currently face does not turn into a social crisis. 

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.

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