The 2019 Estimates for my Department provide for expenditure this year on the jobseeker’s allowance (JA) scheme of €1.6 billion.
Reduced rates for JA recipients aged 18-25 were introduced on a phased basis to tackle high youth unemployment and to prevent long term welfare dependency. This is in line with other EU and OECD jurisdictions. Receiving the maximum rate of JA without a strong financial incentive to engage in education or training can lead to long-term welfare dependency from a young age. If a young jobseeker participates in education or training the personal rate that applies is €203 per week.
In 2013 the EU adopted a Council Recommendation to member states on a Youth Guarantee. Under the Youth Guarantee process my Department’s case officer’s engage with young jobseekers on a monthly basis, to prepare and implement a personal progression plan to help them find work which is tailored to their specific skillset. Where young people do not find work quickly, they are supported through placement on employment and training schemes, which are closely aligned to the needs of the labour market. For example, the Youth Employment Support Scheme (YESS) which I launched last year is a work experience scheme targeted exclusively at young jobseekers facing barriers to employment and participants on the scheme receive a payment of €229.20 per week.
These policies have been effective in reducing both youth and long-term unemployment. For example, the most recent data shows that Irish youth unemployment has fallen from a peak of 31.2% in 2012 to 14.7% in August 2019.
My Department is finalising a review on the impacts of the reduced rates on young jobseekers which I will be reviewing shortly. This is a complex and detailed piece of work which also examined the research undertaken by the National University of Maynooth into effectiveness of the introduction of reduced JA rates payable to young jobseekers aged 18 and 19.
Any changes to the age related rates of payment of JA would also have to be considered in a budgetary context and within the scope of the overall resources available for welfare improvements.
I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy at this time.