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Job Losses

Younger workers have been hit hardest by pandemic, according to new research

New research by the ESRI shows employment is 14% below pre-pandemic levels for people aged 15-34.

YOUNG PEOPLE HAVE been disproportionately affected by the job market implications of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to new findings by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).

The research found employment is 14% lower than pre-pandemic levels for 15-34 year olds, compared to 6% lower for people aged 35 and up. 

In the final quarter of 2020, there are 112,000 fewer 15-34 year olds in paid work compared to the end of 2019. The figure is 93,000 for those in the 35 and up category.

The job losses could echo the effects of the financial crisis, which left almost a third of 20-24-year-olds out of work, training and education. The effects lingered: people who were in their 20s in the 2010s earned less than those in their 20s in the 2000s and 1990s, the ESRI found. 

Author of the research and economist at ESRI, Barra Roantree said that this is because younger workers were the most affected by the fall in employment after the financial crisis. “By about 2016, the labour market had recovered for workers aged 35+,” he said. “[But] the employment rate never recovered to where it was before the financial crisis for younger workers.” 

He said that while the “most serious medical impacts of Covid have been on older people, it is clear that the greatest impact in the labour market is being felt by younger workers.”

Kinga Piotrowska is a recent university graduate who was laid off in January due to the pandemic, but does not receive support from the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP). She has felt stuck with no money for the last few months and is now faced with a further lack of income as she takes part in an unpaid internship.

“I can’t even look for a part-time job in the next few months because I’m working towards my career [with the internship],” she said. “I’m not hopeful that I will be getting a full time job this year. Maybe 2022. I don’t see many opportunities for young people.”

Sinéad, who is 30 years old, was made redundant in 2020 and has not received any income since January this year. “I’ve no money coming in and I’m just kind of relying on what I have saved and support from my parents. It’s been really tough.”

“Obviously you’d hope that things improve,” she said. “But for the last couple of months, so many people, including myself, have been unemployed. It is kind of hard to be hopeful.”

About 385,211 people are in benefit of the PUP, according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO). Colm Lenihan, a part time worker while in university, said he has been comfortable due to the PUP and would have been “lost without it.”

“If I hadn’t got that, I would have had no income to do a proper grocery shop,” he said, “I would have eaten through all my savings, I wouldn’t have been able to afford anything.”

Roantree said that the findings are a serious cause of concern and called on policymakers to “ramp up capacity on high-quality training programmes in the months ahead.”

“It’s really important that we enable young people to get back into jobs and to get back into well-paid jobs,” he also said. “There needs to be serious attention given to how we can ensure that the jobs that young adults get into are ones that they’re well-matched for and will help them progress through their careers.”

The findings form part of a new report, “Poverty, Income Inequality and Living Standards in Ireland”, set to be published this Friday, 14 May. 


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