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People in disadvantaged areas experienced greater employment disruption during Covid pandemic

A report examining the economic impacts of the pandemic on those living in deprived areas was published by the ESRI today.

PEOPLE LIVING IN disadvantaged areas during the Covid-19 pandemic experienced greater disruption to their employment, according to a new report. 

The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), in collaboration with Pobal, published the Pandemic Unemployment and Social Disadvantage in Ireland report this morning.

Focusing on recipients of Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), the report examines the economic impacts of the pandemic on those living in disadvantaged areas across the country and the extent to which the proportion and duration of PUP are related to area-level deprivation.

The PUP was a social welfare payment for employees and self-employed people who became unemployed due to the pandemic and the economic impact of lockdowns and restrictions. 

The report found that compared to affluent areas, pandemic unemployment increased more rapidly among people living in deprived areas during lockdown periods.

It found that disproportionately high PUP rates (10% or more above the State average) are more likely in more deprived areas, while the most deprived areas are 13 percentage points more likely to have disproportionately high PUP rates when compared to the least deprived areas.

It also found that while PUP rates were higher in more deprived areas during lockdowns, they also declined more rapidly in these areas when restrictions eased.

“This rapid decline in unemployment may be due to individuals in deprived areas having less discretion in returning to work once restrictions were lifted,” the report states.

“It may also reflect the high number of people in deprived areas working in sectors that were most affected by lockdowns, such as retail, accommodation, and food.”

It also found that areas with large proportions of non-EU born individuals, relative to the Irish/UK population, are more likely to have disproportionately high levels of PUP recipiency. 

Pobal CEO Anna Shakespeare said the research confirms the negative economic and financial impact the Covid-19 pandemic had on those living in more deprived areas. 

“This may be due to the reduction and closure of operations in industries and sectors which were affected to the greatest extent by public health measures and that those in deprived areas are more likely to work in,” she said.

“It is also an important evidence base for future reviews and evaluations on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in Ireland.”

Shakespeare said the findings demonstrate that low-income workers, marginalised communities and people living in disadvantaged communities throughout Ireland “experienced considerable employment disruption during this period”.

“This research provides a deeper understanding of the effects of the pandemic on disadvantaged communities and the importance of social income measures during this period to provide additional supports to individuals and families.

“The critical role played by the community and voluntary sector during the pandemic in supporting people and communities also needs to be emphasised in the context of this research.”

ESRI senior research officer Dr Adele Whelan, who authored the report, said the findings highlight economic inequalities in the impact of the pandemic, particularly in relation to area-level deprivation.

“The higher PUP rates in more deprived areas give emphasis to the vulnerability of individuals in these areas to labour market disruptions resulting from public health restrictions,” she said.

“This is an important consideration for policymakers if future events necessitate lockdown policies.”

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