Household and youth unemployment levels ‘concerning,’ expert warns

State needs to stimulate employment in hard-to-reach households, says Oxford professor

Ireland should be particularly concerned about unemployment levels for both households and young people

Ireland should be particularly concerned about unemployment levels for both households and young people

 

Ireland should be particularly concerned about unemployment levels for both households and young people in light of today’s Unicef report, a leading international expert has said.

The organisation’s Report Card on Child Well-being revealed that one in five Irish children live in a household where no adult is employed, which is twice the average of high-income countries, while 1 in 10 teenagers do not work and are not in school.

Speaking to The Irish Times following an oration at the Institute of International and European Affairs in Dublin on Monday, University of Oxford professor of social policy and intervention Brian Nolan said the State fares poorly in these areas compared to other rich countries.

“I think [the report] highlights issues to do with employment which despite the improvement in the labour market are still the central issue for children in low-income households,” he said.

“While things have been really improving quite markedly here over the last few years we still look relatively poor compared to other rich countries. So I think that’s a striking area where one would be particularly concerned,” he added.

Elsewhere, the Unicef report found that 18.3 per cent of children are living in relative income poverty, meaning Ireland is above average among the 41 countries included in the study.

This marks an improvement from the comparable 2012 figure of 27.8 per cent of Irish children affected by income poverty as contained in Prof Nolan’s presentation, and the academic believes that more efforts must be made to spread the economic recovery to harder-to-reach households.

“We still have to make sure the economic recovery and the labour market recovery are transmitted to the harder-to-reach households so that they have every chance to get integrated into the labour force.

“I think the priority should be to focus attention now on having them absorbed into the labour market and to be supported into making their own living in the labour market,” he said.

Such a course of action becomes even more imperative given the looming spectre of Brexit according to Prof Nolan, and particularly so in traditionally disadvantaged border areas which stand to bear the brunt of any resultant fallout.

“In terms of Brexit, what we know for sure is it’s going to be bad, but we don’t know how bad because we don’t know what it is going to be, and I don’t think there’s going to be any clarity on that for a very significant period.

“There’s a certain amount that we can perhaps do to support those regions, and in particular the upskilling of the labour force in those regions. But we’re at the mercy of events beyond our control,” he said.