Social Protection | To ask the Minister for Social Protection the current or expected positive outcomes of the labour market in the aftermath of Covid-19
To ask the Minister for Social Protection the current or expected positive outcomes of the labour market in the aftermath of Covid-19; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
As the Deputy will be aware, the COVID-19 pandemic has had an adverse impact on the Irish labour market for much of the last two years. In April 2020, the COVID-19 adjusted unemployment rate – which included all those in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) – peaked at 31.5 percent.
However, since the acceleration of the Government’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign in mid-2021 which facilitated widescale economic and societal reopening, the Irish labour market has been experiencing a sharp recovery. According to the most recent Labour Force Survey results from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), approximately 2.5 million people were employed in Q4 2021, exceeding the pre-pandemic level.
With respect to unemployment, latest figures from April 2022 indicate that the seasonally adjusted monthly unemployment rate has now fallen to 4.8 percent. Similarly, I am pleased to report that youth unemployment rate estimates have been falling month-on-month and are currently at their lowest level in over 20 years at just 5.6 percent. This is an especially welcome development given the particular initial impact of the pandemic and associated public health restrictions on the employment outcomes and opportunities for our young people.
I am pleased to note also that Ireland’s labour force participation rate is also higher than pre-pandemic at 65.1 percent, and in particular, I welcome the marked increase in female participation. I expect that innovations and lessons learned with respect to the adoption of remote working have significantly contributed to this increase and allowed more people, previously outside of the labour market, to take-up employment.
Following the full lifting of public health restrictions earlier this year, Government’s emergency COVID-19 income and employment supports – the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) and Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) – have gradually been wound down. Following the PUP payments on 29 March, the transition process to full jobseeker terms for all remaining PUP recipients commenced with the first jobseeker payments, for this cohort, paid on 5 April. While this has led to an increase in the number of people in receipt of traditional jobseeker’s payments, I am pleased to report that Live Register numbers are below their pre-pandemic levels, standing around 175,400 as of the week ending 8 May.
While all of these labour market trends are encouraging, I remain acutely aware of the challenges many people face in regaining their footing in the labour market in the wake of COVID-19, including those who were unemployment prior to the pandemic. As such, through the Pathways to Work strategy 2021 – 2025, my Department is actively working to assist all those unemployed find, secure and sustain quality employment so as to ensure that no one is left behind during our economic recovery. In doing so, we can further improve labour market outcomes for all in the aftermath of COVID-19.
In this regard, recent labour market projections from the Department of Finance’s Stability Programme Update published in April project further year-on-year growth in overall employment out to 2025. However, reflecting the impact of ongoing high inflation on growth as well as the uncertainty around other macro-economic and geo-political challenges, unemployment is projected to average 5.4 percent over 2023.
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