New Carnegie UK Trust report says a focus on good quality work is crucial to Ireland’s jobs recovery

October 23, 2018

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Policy makers need to move beyond a focus on employment levels to address the negative impact of low pay, underemployment and insecure contracts on workers in Ireland, argues a new report by the Carnegie UK Trust.

The extent of the recent jobs recovery in Ireland is rightly a cause of celebration. But a focus solely on the numbers in employment fails to account for critical issues such as whether or not work is lifting people out of poverty, providing adequate and predictable working hours, or giving people sufficient opportunities for training and progression to advance their careers.

Fulfilling Work in Ireland reviews national and European employment statistics between 2007 and 2017 to track how the recession and the recovery have impacted on how people in Ireland experience the world of work. The report highlights that alongside huge job losses the recession also had a detrimental impact on the quality and security of employment: 2007-2011, saw a surge in involuntary part-time and temporary working and in the numbers of people becoming self-employed due to a lack of better alternatives.

The report finds a lack of recent, high quality data to draw conclusions about the scale and nature of poor quality work in Ireland today, but notes that much of the employment growth associated with the recovery has been in the lowest paid sectors – such as the services sector which accounts for four out of five of minimum wage workers in Ireland. It also finds that young people – who were most likely to be out of work during the recession – are now also most likely to be low-paid, underemployed, or on insecure (e.g. ‘if and when’ or temporary) contracts.

The authors call for a renewed government focus from on understanding and promoting good quality work, arguing that this will be core to a sustainable jobs recovery.

Tina Roche, Chief Executive of the Community Foundation for Ireland, who introduces the report, said:

‘This is an important new report from the Trust which sets up some of the questions we now need to be asking to address the inequalities in our labour market. Quality of work really matters – to tackle low wages and in-work poverty, to unlock individual potential, build healthy and thriving communities, and to ensure that paid work contributes to a better quality of life. If we’re going to build a sustainable recovery, where citizens get to share in the benefits of growth, we need to get a handle on these issues.’

Martyn Evans, Chief Executive of the Carnegie UK Trust, said:

‘Our data review shows that Ireland performs well on some key aspects of job quality – such as management and peer support and access to training – but there is work to do to ensure more people are able to access adequate pay and hours and that low-paid workers in particular have opportunities to progress. Many jurisdictions, including the UK, are facing similar challenges and beginning to have a national conversation about how we move our priorities to a focus on job quality. We hope this report may help shine a light on the different aspects of work quality that matter most and perhaps facilitate similar conversations in Ireland.’

Read the discussion paper, Fulfilling Work in Ireland, or explore the full data review.