Thousands "trapped" in low-paid employment

The latest report from Social Justice Ireland

Thousands of people in Ireland are working part-time hours because they are unable to find full-time work, according to a new report.

The latest ‘Employment Monitor’ from justice advocacy organisation, Social Justice Ireland (SJI) has found over 100,000 people are, “trapped in underemployment” - a figure that has increased by 25% since 2008.

The monitor is a quarterly research report examining the employment landscape in Ireland.

The monitor has been released as the latest Eurostat figures show unemployment has reached its lowest level in the Eurozone since 2009.

In Ireland, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for January was 7.1% - down from 7.2% in December 2016 according to the CSO.

The figure is down from 8.5% a year ago.

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar said Ireland’s falling unemployment figures show that the government’s approach to unemployment is working.

“In 2017 I intend to move at least another 20,000 people from welfare to work,” he said. “I also want to make more progress towards our long-term target of reducing unemployment to 5-6%, and reducing long-term unemployment to below 2.5%.”

Underemployment

However, Michelle Murphy, SJI Research and Policy Analyst said the underemployment figures point to a “worrying employment trend in Ireland.”

“Although many employment indicators are positive, hidden within headline employment figures are a number of problems, including significant underemployment, high levels of low pay, and hundreds of thousands of workers earning a wage that is below subsistence level,” she said.

Ireland’s rate of low-paid employment is one of the highest in the EU and Ms Murphy said around 13% of people in part-time employment are receiving some form of government unemployment relief.

“A change of narrative is required,” said Ms Murphy.”Improving headline employment figures are important, but the drive for stronger job creation should not come at the cost of diminishing job quality and security.”

 Sinn Féin’s spokesperson for social protection John Brady said: "There is huge concern with the numbers of people who are underemployed - languishing in part-time jobs, willing to work longer but the hours are not available to them.”

"These are people in precarious employment, with zero-hour contracts and as a result, have no job security whatsoever,” he said.

"When we consider the hundreds of thousands of people who were forced out of the country, those forced into precarious part-time work and those in job activation schemes, the numbers the Minister is trumpeting tell an altogether different story."