While the Government allocated €1.08 billion in 2014 towards activation supports for jobseekers,1 and has put in place the 2012 Action Plan for Jobs,2 the unemployment rate remains high with almost 60 per cent of people out of work classified as long-term unemployed.3 There is also a continued reliance on internship schemes4 and a severe shortage of job opportunities with 24 unemployed people for each job vacancy.5 In addition to this, the official statistics do not represent the true scale of the unemployment crisis as the level of outward migration has increased considerably since 2006. In 2013, almost 76,000 people aged between 15 and 44 years emigrated,6 compared to 30,000 in 2006.7
The Pathways to Work Strategy aims to ensure that at least 75,000 long-term unemployed persons would enter the workforce by 2015.8 The figures for the first quarter of 2014 indicate that 46,000 long-term unemployed people had returned to work since the introduction of the strategy.9 Despite these statistics, recent figures indicate that employment growth has dramatically fallen in 2014 with an average of 2500 jobs created each quarter compared to a quarterly increase of 15,000 jobs in 201310 meaning that if this trend continues, the Government will not reach its 2016 target of 100,000 more people at work. Furthermore, the exclusionary or sanction-focused approach has been criticised as resources and payments are mainly directed at people in receipt of a jobseekers payment excluding people on a disability related payment or on One Parent Family Payment.11
Particular groups of people have not benefited to the same degree from the Government’s labour activation measures. For example, the unemployment rate for under 25s has risen from nine per cent in 2007 to 28 per cent in 2013.12 In the second quarter of 2014, youth unemployment was recorded at 27 per cent.13 In 2013, almost 35,000 young people aged between 15 and 24 emigrated compared to less than 16,000 in 2006.14 These figures are mirrored by the rise in the number of young people Not in Education, Employment or Training (the NEET rate) and of the 34 OECD countries, Ireland’s increase in the NEET rate was the fifth highest.15
The Youth Guarantee Scheme, a European Union funded programme commenced in 2013, seeks to ensure that ‘young people receive a good-quality offer of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship within a period of four months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education’.16 However, the mechanism chosen to implement part of the Youth Guarantee is problematic due to its compulsory nature as a young person will be required to take up a developmental internship17 or face a penalty of the 25 per cent cut to their jobseekers payment.18
This scheme is targeting young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, many of whom will have left school early. It is absolutely critical that choice is at the heart of this intervention and that the necessary supports are in place to ensure that it will be a positive experience for the young people involved.
The unemployment rate among people with disabilities continues to be much higher than among the general population. Census 2011 figures indicated that 31 per cent of people with disabilities were unemployed compared to 19 per cent at that time for the rest of the population.19 The 2011 figure demonstrated a marked increase since 2004 when it stood at eight per cent.20 People with a mental health disability21 are nine times more likely to be out of the labour force than those without a disability and this represents the highest rate for any disability group.22 While the Department of Justice and Equality has published the National Disability Strategy Implementation Plan 2013-201523 and the Government is in the process of developing a Comprehensive Employment Strategy for People with a Disability,24 these measures alone will not address the huge and growing disparities in employment rates for people with disabilities to enable them to fully realise their employment rights in an equal and inclusive way.
Travellers and Roma also face huge barriers to accessing employment in Ireland. Census 2011 revealed a Traveller unemployment figure of 84.3 per cent compared to an overall unemployment rate of 19 per cent for the general population.25 There are no available statistics on the level of Roma unemployment, but significant barriers to employment exist in the form of discrimination and low levels of education, language and literacy skills amongst this group.26 The only targeted training programme for Roma in Ireland which was run by Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre lost its funding in 2011. A Special Initiative for the employment of Travellers was introduced in 2005 and mainstreamed in 2011. In 2012, eight projects were still in operation but information is not available after this point.27
FLAC urges the Committee to recommend that the State:
Provide high quality, appropriate and equal education, training and work opportunities to all people who are seeking employment, including those with disabilities, illness and lone parents.
Address the high rate of youth unemployment, in particular longer-term youth unemployed, through a suite of well-resourced measures which are human rights-compliant.
Introduce the Comprehensive Employment Strategy for Persons with Disabilities along with a detailed implementation plan as a matter of urgency.
Ensure people working in sheltered workshops are entitled to the same rights as other workers, including the right to a fair wage and compliance with best practice on working hours.
Resource and implement a national employment strategy for Travellers and Roma in consultation with relevant civil society actors.
1 Department of Social Protection (2013) Budget Factsheet: Main Social Welfare Changes and Rates of Payments, Dublin: Department of Social Protection, p.2.
2 Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (2012) Action Plan for Jobs, Dublin: DJEI. Itaims to ensure that 100,000 more people are in in work by 2016 and with two million people in work by 2020.
3 Central Statistics Office (2014) Quarterly National Household Survey: Quarter 2 2014, Cork: CSO.
4 Unite Trade Union, ‘Unite warns that compulsory labour schemes may violate international conventions’, [press release], 27 February 2014.
5 Nevin Economic Research Institute (2014) Quarterly Economic Facts: Summer 2014, Dublin: NERI, p.33.
6 Social Justice Ireland (2014) Socio-Economic Review 2014, Dublin: Social Justice Ireland, pp.206-208.
7 Central Statistics Office (2012) Population and Migration Estimates: April 2012 (with revisions from April 2007 to April 2011), Cork: Central Statistics Office, p.6.
8 Government of Ireland (2012) Pathways to Work Strategy: Government Policy Statement on Labour Market Activation, Dublin: Government of Ireland.
9 Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (2014) Action Plan for Jobs 2014: First Progress Report, Dublin: DJEI, p.3.
11 Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed (2014) INOU Pre-Budget Submission to the Department of Social Protection, Dublin: INOU, p.5.
12 Oireachtas Library & Research Service (2013) Spotlight: Responding to Youth Unemployment in Europe, Dublin: Houses of the Oireachtas, p.2.
13 Central Statistics Office (2014) Quarterly National Household Survey: Quarter 1 2014, Cork: CSO.
14 Central Statistics Office (2014) Population and Migration Estimates: April 2014 Cork: Central Statistics Office.
15 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2014) Ireland’s Action Plan for Jobs: A Preliminary Review, Paris: OECD, p.6.
16 European Council (2013) Council Recommendation of 22 April 2013 on establishing a Youth Guarantee 2013/C 120/01, Brussels: European Council.
17 Department of Social Protection (2014) Pathways to Work: The Implementation of the EU Council Recommendation for a Youth Guarantee Ireland, Dublin: DSP, p.21.
18 M. Taft,’ From Youth Guarantee to Mandatory Labour’, Unite’s Notes on the Front, 12 March 2014.
19 Central Statistics Office (2012) Profile 8: Our Bill of Health, Dublin: Stationery Office, p.15.
20 D. Watson, G. Kingston and F.McGinnity (2013) Disability in the Irish Labour Market: Evidence from the QNHS Equality Module 2010, Dublin: Economic and Social Research Institute & the Equality Authority, p.18.
21 Mental health disability is defined by the Irish Census as having both a long-lasting psychological or emotional condition and having a difficulty with an activity of daily living.
22 D. Watson, G. Kingston & F. McGinnity (2012) Disability in the Irish Labour Market: Evidence from the QNHS Equality Module, Dublin: Equality Authority/Economic and Social Research Institute, p.19.
23 Department of Justice and Equality (2013) National Disability Strategy Implementation Plan 2013-2015, Dublin: Department of Justice and Equality.
24 Disability Federation of Ireland (2014) Newsletter Special Edition May 2014: Update on the National Disability Strategy Implementation Plan, Dublin: DFI, p.7.
25 Government of Ireland (2012) Census 2011 Profile 7: Religion, Ethnicity and Irish Travellers, Dublin: Stationery Office, p.33.
26 Health Service Executive and Pavee Point (2012) Roma Communities in Ireland: Child Protection Considerations, Dublin: HSE and Pavee Point.
27 Pavee Point (2013) ‘Travelling with Austerity’: Impacts of Cuts on Travellers, Traveller Projects and Services, Dublin: Pavee Point.
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