I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. The social insurance contribution-based jobseeker's benefit and the means-tested jobseeker's allowance provide income support for people who have lost their jobs and are unable to find full-time employment. The rate of jobseeker's benefit is graduated accorded to an applicant's previous average earnings and graduated rates are applied where the person's average reckonable weekly earnings are less than €300. Recipients with average weekly earnings of less than this amount will be paid a personal weekly rate, ranging from €91.10 to €159. Recipients with average weekly earnings over €300 receive a personal rate of €203 per week, which is aligned with the maximum personal rate of jobseeker's allowance. The vast majority of recipients, almost 80%, are paid the maximum rate.
Further to budget 2022, the maximum rate will increase by €5 per week with effect from next January, with pro rata increases applied to the graduated rates.
It would not be appropriate for a person to receive a weekly social welfare benefit payment that exceeded his or her income from employment. Graduated rates of payment mean that there is no financial disincentive to return to work. This is particularly relevant for those who work on a part-time basis, as many people on graduated rates do. To do otherwise would have a negative impact on the labour market.
It is open for a person on a graduated rate of jobseeker's benefit to apply for the means-tested jobseeker's allowance if that is financially more beneficial. Approximately 630 such recipients are currently being paid a higher rate on the jobseeker's allowance scheme. The programme for Government, the national economic recovery plan and the Pathways to Work Strategy 2021-2025 all include a commitment to consider the development of a pay-related benefit. Similar pay-related social insurance schemes are already in place in other European countries. The pandemic unemployment payment, PUP, rate is linked to a person's prior earnings and, under the Pathways to Work Strategy 2021-2025, the Government has committed to using the experience from the PUP to inform the design of a pay-related social insurance-based short-term jobseeker payment that may be developed by quarter 3 of 2023.