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Social Protection | To ask the Minister for Social Protection the measures taken by her Department which had the most impact on efficiently tackling the rates of unemployment both during and after the pandemic

To ask the Minister for Social Protection the measures taken by her Department which had the most impact on efficiently tackling the rates of unemployment both during and after the pandemic; if she has in mind any further proposals in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter.


The labour market situation sharply deteriorated in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.  As a result, the Government introduced emergency income and employment support measures, namely the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) and the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS), which was later replaced by the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS).  

Reflecting the Government’s decision to avoid a cliff edge associated with the sudden removal of supports, it was agreed that these emergency measures would be wound down gradually, the last step of which will be the closure of the EWSS at the end of this month.  The EWSS was designed to maintain linkages between employers and employees.  As of the end of April 257,000 people employees were being supported through this scheme.

Analysis conducted in November 2021, published by my Department, shows that, by early October 2021, of the 774,000 people who had exited the PUP, 571,000 – or 74 percent – had evidence of employment.  Of these, 305,000 returned to work, at some stage, with their pre-PUP employer.  In this regard, the PUP scheme was also successful in maintaining links with employers.

These measures helped to ensure that the economy and the labour market was well positioned for the easing of the public health restrictions and the resumption of normal economic activity.  In part as a result of these efforts, the Live Register figure as of May 8th was around 175,400, which is lower than the pre-pandemic levels.  The overall unemployment rate is 4.8 percent and the youth unemployment rate declined significantly and is currently at 5.6 percent.  These indicators are very welcome and signify a strong recovery in the labour market.

In addition to the emergency Covid measures, as part of the Pathways to Work Strategy 2021-2025, the Government has put in place additional supports to help those who were affected during the pandemic as well as helping those who, prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, faced disadvantage in the labour market.  These measures include but are not limited to:

  • Expanding the JobsPlus financial incentive for employers.
  • Expanding the capacity of the Public Employment Service across the State.
  • Launching the Work Placement Experience Programme (WPEP), which is a 6-month, 30 hour per week voluntary work experience programme, for persons out of work for six months or more.
  • Ring-fencing at least 1,000 out of the 3,000 additional Community Employment and Tús places for long-term unemployed young people.

I am confident that the comprehensive package of measures that comprise Pathways 2021-2025 will be sufficient to support the labour market as we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic.  Additionally, I am confident that the targeting of these measures, at those who face disadvantages in the labour market, will ensure that the recovery will be felt throughout society.

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