Early school-leavers, disabled to be hardest hit by recession


Boys who left school early to work in the building industry and people with disabilities will be among those hardest hit by the recession, according to Professor John Fitzgerald of the ESRI.

Professor Fitzgerald was speaking at the launch of the Equality Authority's Strategic Plan 2009-2011 today.

Ireland would recover from the current crisis if the world recovered, he said, but there would be a big deficit due to cuts in wages and rises in taxes. We needed a five-year plan to show that we could get out of "this mess". Taxes would have to rise to ensure that certain essential services, like health, were maintained, he said. The biggest danger was that the rest of the world would not recover and deliver.

We needed to price ourselves back into the market and wages would fall by between five and 10 per cent, he predicted. However, some of this would be absorbed by a likely fall in prices of about four per cent, he said.

Unemployment would rise to between 12 and 15 per cent. He said that certain groups would be disadvantaged in this crisis. With high unemployment anyone who had any difficulties would be more vulnerable.

Among the vulnerable groups were those who had entered the building trade with little education, and who would never work in the building trade again. They did not have the necessary education for the future.

Those with disabilities were also vulnerable, as they already experienced much higher rates of unemployment than those without. Immigrants were also disproportionately represented among the unemployed, and had been concentrated in the construction industry.

He said he did not think we would see net emigration. Irish people knew there were no jobs abroad, and while some foreigners may return home, many would not, and had settled here often with Irish partners.

In this crisis a lot of highly educated people would be unemployed, and they would be competing for jobs with those of limited education, he said. Men who only had primary education were also less likely to be married than more educated men.

Turning to longer terms trends in the labour market, he said that women outnumbered men in higher education by about 60 to 40. As those with higher education were more likely to be employed, this would affect the make-up of the labour market.

Referring to a European Commission report published yesterday that showed that women earned €160,000 a year less than men, and were more vulnerable in a recession, he said this reflected the penalty women suffered by the time spent out of the labour market.

However, he thought this might change in the future as employers looking for the brightest and the best would be more likely to employ women and, in order to retain the most skilled, would be prepared to have more flexible working hours and conditions.

He said that the average age of our population was rising, and this would also be reflected in labour market trends, with fewer young people entering the labour market in the future.