What can be done to help Ireland's "unacceptable" rate of jobless households?

A new report has come up with a number of proposed solutions.

THERE ARE MANY reasons why there are jobless households in Ireland, and a new report looks at what can be done to tackle this problem.

The report, from the National Economic and Social Council (NESC), looks at why Ireland has a high level of jobless households – nearly one quarter of households in Ireland is jobless, compared to a European average of 11 per cent.

Complex reasons

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Helen Johnston, the report’s author, said that the reasons for household joblessness are complex, but related to three main factors.

  • The interaction between the tax and social welfare system and the transition from welfare to work.
  • The availability of jobs and whether the skills of those in jobless households match the requirements of the job.
  • The specific characteristics of the jobless household, such as the age, level of education and skills, and the health of the adults in the household, as well as the age and number of children.

Given this diversity, the report suggests that the issue will not be resolved through a single solution. Instead, it says it could be resolved through packages of support.

This means that the emphasis on participation and activation must extend beyond those on the live register and those classified as long-term unemployed.

Responses must also include tailored services that respond to people’s circumstances, said the report.

Government response

In response to the report, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: “It is not acceptable that 23% of Irish households are jobless.”

He said that if this situation is not addressed “it will perpetuate the cycle of joblessness, hopelessness and welfare dependency”.

The sharp increase in jobless households, from an already high level, will have lasting economic and social consequences for generations to come unless we have specific, targeted solutions.

Kenny said that the Government has a plan to get Ireland working again, and that the problem of jobless households “is a complex one and requires an ambitious programme of reform”.

One of the Government’s top priorities is to continue our plan to dismantle the passive welfare system that abandoned such large numbers of households to lifelong dependency on the State. This is essential if we are to break the cycle of poverty and unemployment associated with jobless households.

Government responses to address unemployment include the Action Plan for Jobs, and Pathways to Work.


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There was a sharp increase in jobless households in Ireland following the economic
crash in 2008.

NESC noted that in Ireland, jobless adults are less likely to live with at least one working adult than in many other European countries.

The working patterns in couple households have changed in that there has been a decline in ‘traditional male breadwinner’ households. At the same time, there has been an increase in dual-earner households and a growth in households where neither partner is at work.

Children make up nearly one-third of those in jobless households. About one-fifth are
unemployed, 18 per cent are in home duties, and 12 per cent are sick or disabled.

A further 13 per cent are students over sixteen, or are adults who are otherwise
inactive in the labour market.

The risk of being in a jobless household is related to the employability of those in the household and the household structure. People who live in jobless households are more likely to have no educational qualifications, to have never worked or to be in the unskilled social class, said NESC.

They are also more likely to be renting their accommodation, to be single or parenting alone, and to either have a disability or to live with someone with a disability.

Jobless households are not equally distributed throughout the State and NESC said the uneven distribution of unemployment “may indicate persistent underlying structural differences”.

To read the full report, visit the NESC website.

Read: ESRI: One in five people are living in jobless households>

Read: Live Register: Far more men than women are dropping their claims>

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