Young people six times more likely to be on temporary contracts

ESRI and IHRC report shows people with disabilities, the young and minorities more at risk

Young people, people with disabilities, Travellers, and Eastern European migrants are at much higher risk of disadvantage around employment and have less access to decent work, new research shows.

The report, Monitoring Decent Work in Ireland, published by the Economic and Social Research Institute and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, sets out how these groups have seen consistent inequalities in access to employment, job security and seniority.

Regarding security and stability of work, one third of younger workers (18-24) had a temporary contract, compared to 6 per cent of 25-64 year olds in 2019.

“We found that younger age groups report higher rates of temporary work,” the report said. “However, we note that further work could usefully be conducted on the prevalence of zero-hour contracts, as well as ‘if and when’ contracts.”


The report found that about a third of the general workforce worked in a professional/managerial job, as compared with just 14 per cent of Eastern European workers.

“Occupational attainment analysis showed that young respondents, those with a disability and Eastern European migrants were all less likely to work in high-skilled jobs,” it said.

“Over a period of labour market growth (2014-2019), a striking finding is that while group differences were maintained, employment rates grew for all the groups considered. This underscores the importance of the availability of jobs and growth in the labour market.”

Low pay

The employment rate for people with disabilities (41 per cent) was 32 percentage points below the national average (73 per cent), highlighting a significant gap in employment.

Census data on ethnicity and religion for 2016 reveals high unemployment rates among Black and Muslim respondents relative to others, though unemployment rates among Irish Travellers, at 80 per cent, were highest of all the groups measured.

Just over one fifth (22 per cent) of employees had low hourly pay, which was defined as less than €12.16 per hour in 2019. Low hourly pay rates were much more common among young workers (60 per cent), Eastern European migrants (38 per cent) and lone parents (32 per cent).

“Low hourly wages and low weekly pay (less than two-thirds of the median) are used to measure earnings,” the report said. “A number of groups have significantly higher risks on both measures; young people (aged 18-24), migrants from Eastern Europe, lone parents, and those with low educational attainment.

“Others, such as women, have lower weekly pay as they work fewer hours, but not low hourly pay. Low pay among Eastern European migrants is consistent with lower occupational attainment; in the case of young people, a low level of previous work experience is likely to be a key factor.”


One in five ethnic minority workers reported discrimination in the workplace, which was almost three times the average rate of discrimination (7 per cent). Some 14 per cent of workers with a disability experienced workplace discrimination, as well as 11 per cent of non-Irish workers.

“There is evidence of group differences in the experience of work-related discrimination,” continued the report. “Specifically, women, ethnic minority respondents, those with a disability, non-Irish nationals, and non-Catholics all report higher rates of discrimination in the workplace.

“Research using earlier data also found higher reported experiences of discrimination seeking work among multiple groups, including religious minorities, ethnic minorities, Irish Travellers, older workers, and those with a disability.”

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter