ESRI removes paper saying many better off on dole
THE ECONOMIC and Social Research Institute has taken the “unprecedented” step of withdrawing a paper which said a high proportion of Irish people with children would be better off on the dole than in employment.
The ESRI issued a statement last night saying the paper, The Costs of Working in Ireland, had been removed from its website because of “concern that the public could be misled by its content”.
“The decision to withdraw the paper has been made as it has emerged that the underlying analysis requires major revision and that the paper’s estimates overstate the numbers of people who would be better off on the dole than in work,” the ESRI said.
The paper was issued as a work-in-progress on May 22nd but the ESRI had cautioned that it should not be regarded as an official report.
The paper found that 44 per cent of people with childcare costs for one or two children under five years old were better off on social welfare, though the number fell to 26 per cent for parents with no children under five.
“ESRI working papers represent unrefereed work-in-progress by researchers who are solely responsible for the content and any views expressed therein,” the ESRI statement added.
The paper found that someone with a job incurred five times the costs of an unemployed person when factors such as transport, clothing, food and childcare were taken into account.
It stated that an employed person without children faced additional costs of €7,000 per year (some €140 per week) and that this increased to €9,000 (some €180 per week) when there were young children in the household.
The paper was co-authored by Niamh Crilly, Anne Pentecost and Richard Tol, an environmental economist now working as a professor at the University of Sussex in England.
At the time of his departure from the ESRI some six months ago, Prof Tol criticised the think-tank, saying its financial position affected the independence of the work it produced and that people who worked there were discouraged from expressing personal opinions to journalists or on social media sites such as Twitter.
“In a university you can say what you like if you behave responsibly. It’s not the same with the ESRI,” he said. “If you violate policy and upset people, you can get into trouble.”
Contacted by The Irish Times, Prof Tol said he was on holidays and unavailable for comment yesterday. In its statement, the ESRI said it understood Prof Tol was planning to revise the working paper.
In its conclusion, the paper states the finding that employed people incur five time the costs of those out of work is “important for policy as it substantially affects the incentives to work”.
Unemployment hit a new recession-era peak of 312,800 people in the first quarter of this year with the seasonally adjusted rate of joblessness now at 14.8 per cent of the workforce.
Responding to the report prior to its withdrawal, the Department of Social Protection had said the “great majority of people on the Live Register have a significant financial incentive to work” with some 289,000 receiving a weekly social welfare income of €188 or less. It said three-quarters of those on the Live Register had no dependants.