I propose to take Questions Nos. 66, 67 and 97 together.
My Department’s main social welfare supports for people who are unemployed are the jobseeker’s allowance and the jobseekers benefit schemes. Both schemes are based on a day of employment or unemployment as the case may be. This days based system provides significant income supports to jobseekers who are part-time workers or casually employed. For instance an individual can earn approximately €20,190 per year and still retain a small jobseekers allowance payment, while the equivalent threshold for an individual with a qualified adult is almost €34,700 if they are both working. Where a person is fully unemployed they receive the full rate.
I recently implemented a change to jobseeker’s benefit for workers with subsidiary employment to provide a fairer and more flexible system for people who want to work.
The new arrangement, which took effect on New Year’s Day, allows workers with subsidiary seasonal and casual employment to earn €7,500 a year without it impacting on their rights to jobseeker’s benefit when work is scarce. This will allow for a greater degree of flexibility when assessing the earnings.
In parts of rural Ireland and remote communities in particular, the only work available for some may be seasonal – whether in agriculture, fishing or tourism – and it is only right that we update our supports to allow such workers continue in employment and to sustain seasonal industries.
Any further measures would have to be considered in a policy and budgetary context within the scope of the overall resources available for welfare improvements.