Job insecurity and the labour market
Sir, – The constant trumpeting of the “good news” of our plummeting unemployment rate serves to deflect from the widespread insecurity and precariousness that continues to define our labour market.
I work in the public service as a clerical officer, a secure but low-paid position, and the fact that this role is in such high demand illustrates how falling unemployment has done nothing to ease the sense of insecurity among workers.
In 2014, the advertisement of clerical officer jobs in the Civil Service attracted 28,500 applicants, at a time when there was a 12 per cent unemployment rate. By the time the next campaign was held for these positions, in 2016, unemployment had dropped to 8 per cent, yet there was no fall in the number of applications, and indeed there was a slight increase, with 29,500 applicants vying for the jobs.
The problem of job insecurity is clearly so entrenched that it needs intervention by the legislature. Under European Council directive 1999/70, member states must legislate to prevent the abuse of fixed-term contracts either by requiring objective grounds for renewing a fixed-term contract (rather than providing a permanent contract), by limiting the number of times a fixed-term contract can be renewed or by imposing a ceiling on how long a person can be kept on successive fixed-term contracts. Not only has Ireland opted for only one of these, but it has also chosen the most conservative (the third). Under Irish law, a worker has to be employed on successive fixed-term contracts for a solid four years before he or she is entitled to permanency.
Essentially, governments have done as little as they can get away with to tackle precarious work. It is time that our lawmakers abandoned this minimalist approach and embraced all three measures suggested by the directive. With no end in sight to the housing emergency, workers need secure jobs and incomes now more than ever. – Yours, etc,
Fórsa Trade Union),