Part-time work ‘of little benefit’ to families seeking to get out of poverty

ESRI study says parental job loss an important trigger in families becoming economically vulnerable

Part-time work is of little benefit for families trying to exit poverty, a report from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) warns. Image: iStock.

Part-time work is of little benefit for families trying to exit poverty, a report from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) warns. Image: iStock.

 

Part-time work is of little benefit for families trying to exit poverty, a report from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) warns.

The report, The Dynamics of Child Poverty in Ireland, published on Monday, says “only full-time employment” is effective in lifting families out of poverty.

Embedding this finding into policy “would require significant childcare support, especially for those with younger children.

“Moreover, for those raising a family alone, combining full-time work and caring may not be feasible,” it says, adding that this fact underlines the importance of welfare supports to such families.

Drawing on data from the Growing Up in Ireland study, based on interviews with more than 6,000 families between 2007 and 2017, the ESRI finds relationship breakdown between parents to be “an important trigger” for a family moving into “economic vulnerability” (EV).

“Both maternal and paternal job loss is an important trigger for entry into EV,” it says. “A mother’s transition from non-employment into full-time work plays a significant role in moving families out of poverty, an effect which is almost identical to that of a father’s entry to full-time employment.

“In contrast, transition from non-employment into part-time employment are not associated with exits from EV, suggesting that part-time work is not enough to lift families out of poverty.”

Vulnerable

It says the families most vulnerable are lone-parent families, larger families with four or more children, those in the lowest maternal education categories and ethnic minorities.

The importance of core welfare supports, as well as income supports to counter low-pay, for lone parents and other households to reduce child poverty, is stressed in the report.

It highlights the situation of larger families - which “has become less prominent in discussions of child poverty over recent decades” - and says it is “timely” to assess the impact of the 2014 decision to remove additional child-benefit payments, which had been going to larger families.

It says “exposure to EV during childhood” is associated with poorer outcomes including in cognitive and educational attainment, school engagement, socio-emotional development, life satisfaction, self-esteem, chronic ill-health, obesity, unhealthy behaviours, and, quality of relationships.

“In the majority of cases, there appears to be a cumulative effect of exposure, in that outcomes are poorer where a family is persistently or always vulnerable. That said, even transitory spells of EV are associated with worse outcomes compared to never experiencing EV.”