Thursday, 1 July 2021

Questions (124, 138, 147, 171)

Mick Barry

Question:

124. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Social Protection the measures she will take to tackle the crisis of youth unemployment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34795/21]

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Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

138. Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Social Protection the latest figures for youth unemployment; the action that is being taken to tackle the unprecedented levels of youth unemployment that have emerged during the pandemic; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29301/21]

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Louise O'Reilly

Question:

147. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Social Protection if her Department is drafting plans to tackle youth unemployment with specific focus on those not in education, employment or training; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29937/21]

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Jennifer Murnane O'Connor

Question:

171. Deputy Jennifer Murnane O'Connor asked the Minister for Social Protection the plans in place to tackle youth unemployment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35343/21]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 124, 138, 147 and 171 together.

The experience of past recessions indicates that youth employment tends to be significantly impacted by any labour market shock. This is because many employers operate a "last in-first out" approach when reducing their labour force. Moreover, in the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact on our youth is driven by the tendency for many younger people to work in some of the sectors most severely impacted by the pandemic: namely, the hospitality (accommodation & food) and retail sectors.

Prior to the pandemic, the seasonally adjusted youth unemployment rate (15-24 year olds) stood at just under 12% in December 2019. Latest estimates from the CSO, however, indicate that the traditional unemployment rate for young persons stood at 20.1 percent for young people in May. This estimate excludes those in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP). When all those in receipt of the PUP are included, this gives a COVID-19 adjusted unemployment rate estimate of 58.8 percent for young people at the end of May.

A significant number of PUP recipients are students. As of last week (June 22nd 2021), it is estimated that just under 27,000 PUP recipients are students, with the vast majority under the age of 25. Using international measures of unemployment, set by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), students are generally not counted as unemployed, as they are not considered part of the labour force. Therefore, the inclusion of PUP recipients, including students, in the COVID-19 adjusted measure of youth unemployment serves to inflate this measure. While the employment of young people has been significantly affected by the pandemic, we also know from past recessions that they are also the most resilient, with youth unemployment levels typically falling quite quickly once economic activity resumes. Many have already returned to work, and others will continue to return to their previous employment, as public health restrictions continue to ease. However, others will require assistance and support to return to employment, re-skill and to find new jobs. As a consequence, my Department is supporting a range of initiatives to assist people, including young people, back to work.

As outlined under the Government’s ‘Economic Recovery Plan’, which was launched on June 1st 2021, a central focus of the recovery process will be on helping people get back to work, training or education by extending labour market supports, and through intense activation and skills opportunities. Pathways to Work 2021-2025 will be a key delivery mechanism of the Economic Recovery Plan’s second Pillar on ‘Helping People Back into Work’.

In supporting people back into employment – including young people – the Pathways to Work 2021–2025 strategy will seek to minimise any long-term scarring effects of the pandemic on the labour force for those whose jobs are permanently lost while providing support to those unemployed pre-pandemic. The strategy will also set out how an expanded Public Employment Service will utilise its existing and expanded capacity to deliver effective services in a post-COVID labour market with an overall target of increasing the caseload capacity by 100,000 per annum.

Some of the key supports for young people that will form part of Pathways to Work and the Economic Recovery Plan include:

- Expanding the JobsPlus scheme to 8,000 places and enhancing the incentive to recruit young jobseekers in particular, by increasing the youth age limit from 25 to 30 years.

- Accelerating rollout of an additional 50,000 education and training places to support jobseekers to upskill and reskill for the labour market.

- A new Government Youth Employment Charter for intensive engagement with young jobseeker which will build on the new EU Reinforced Youth Guarantee.

- A new work placement scheme which will be open to all regardless of age, but should be particularly attractive to and beneficial for young people requiring work experience.

My Department works closely with the Further Education and Training sector to provide access to training, upskilling and reskilling opportunities. The Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science also last week announced the extension of the Apprenticeship Incentivisation Scheme until the end of December 2021. This scheme provides financial supports for employers who register apprentices to a national apprenticeship.

In addition, the Action Plan for Apprenticeship 2021-2025 was launched in April by the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science. It sets out a five-year strategy to deliver on the Programme for Government commitment of reaching 10,000 new apprentice registrations per year by 2025. The plan provides a roadmap to a single apprenticeship system and new supports for employers and apprentices, which will prove attractive for young people.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.