One in five PUP recipients based in accommodation and food industries

Restaurants association says payment should be closed for sectors that are open

A fifth of PUP recipients are under the age of 25, while those in the 25-34 and 35-44 age brackets each represent nearly a quarter of recipients.

A fifth of PUP recipients are under the age of 25, while those in the 25-34 and 35-44 age brackets each represent nearly a quarter of recipients.

 

One in five people receiving the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) are in the accommodation and food services industry, new figures show.

More than 2,000 accommodation and food service workers left the scheme this week, but the sector continues to have the largest number of people still in receipt of the payment. The 31,767 in the industry still registered equates to just under 25 per cent of the number receiving the payment when claims peaked in May 2020.

The weekly figures published by the Department of Social Protection reveal that 153,309 people continue to receive the PUP. Nearly one in six recipients (24,287) resided in the wholesale and retail trade industries, including vehicle repair, while one in nine (17,879) worked in administrative and support services. There are 12,609 people in the construction industry left on the payment, as well as 8,908 in manufacturing and 7,657 in “other” sectors, including hairdressing and beauty. Less than 5,000 recipients worked in the arts, entertainment and recreation industries.

The chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, Adrian Cummins, said there needs to be “further investigation” into why the number of people in receipt of the PUP in his industry continues to be so high when hospitality businesses are struggling to find staff.

“Every business has signs up looking for staff. We have students on PUP payments who can stay at home,” he said.

The payment was necessary at a time when the hospitality industry was forced to shut but one “cannot square the circle” of staff shortages and the continuation of these payments, Mr Cummins said.

“Are those 32,000 people in Ireland or have they gone back to their own countries? Our position is that PUP should be closed for sectors that are fully open,” he said. Whether wages should be higher is a “separate issue”, he added, and the PUP should not be viewed as a higher rate of unemployment benefit.

Padraig Cribben, chief executive of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI), said the staff shortage in the pub industry is at a “critical” level. He said the extent of the demand for the PUP is “surprising”, given there is an abundance of vacant positions in hospitality. However, he wondered if there could be regional variations affecting pub workers.

Some publicans have been forced to stay shut for the first few days of each week to ensure they have enough staff for the busier trading days later in the week, he said.

Mr Cribben said there are “plenty of instances” where publicans have vacancies but are not receiving applications. “They are certainly not getting CVs, that is for sure,” he added.

A fifth of PUP recipients are under the age of 25, while those in the 25-34 and 35-44 age brackets each represent nearly a quarter. There are a further 2,163 people in receipt of Enhanced Illness Benefit, which covers those who contract the virus or with medical certificates proving they have been advised to self-isolate.*

The PUP has been closed to new claimants since July 8th, while full-time students will receive their final payment on September 7th. Next month the top three rates of the payment will be reduced by €50, with the maximum weekly rate to reduce to €300. People on the €203 PUP rate will transition to standard jobseekers terms.

The Department of Social Protection is also planning two further phases of rate changes: on November 16th of this year and on February 8th, 2022.

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys said 4,400 PUP recipients closed their claims last week, almost half of which were in the accommodation and food sectors.

“It is heartening to see more people return to work each week as we continue to move cautiously through our recovery from Covid-19,” she said.

*This article was amended on August 18th, 2021