As the Deputy will be aware, young people in the labour market (those under 25 years of age) can be particularly affected by labour market disruptions.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 264,000 young people were in work and the seasonally adjusted youth unemployment rate for 2019 averaged approximately 12.5 percent. However, following the onset of the pandemic, the CSO’s ‘COVID-19 adjusted’ monthly youth unemployment rate – which included all those in receipt of the PUP – increased dramatically, peaking at almost 70 percent in May 2020.
Following the phased reopening of the economy over the latter half of 2021, most young people closed their PUP claims and returned to work, with the CSO estimating that there were approximately 307,000 young people in employment by Q4 2021 – significantly more than before the pandemic. This recovery resulted in a sharp downward trend in youth unemployment rates.
While a slight increase was observed in the ‘COVID-19 adjusted’ measure of youth unemployment in December and January following the temporary reintroduction of public health restrictions, it has since begun to fall again. February figures indicate the standard youth unemployment rate is 11.1 percent and the ‘COVID-19 adjusted’ measure is 12.7 percent. This will continue to be monitored closely.
While it is welcome that the youth unemployment rate has reduced and returned to pre-pandemic levels, it is critical to continue to minimise potential scarring effects amongst young people who permanently lost their jobs during the pandemic, and to support young people who face difficulties or higher barriers to entry to the labour market.
Accordingly, my Department has a series of targeted employment supports under Pathways to Work 2021-2025, the Government’s employment services strategy. These include expanding the JobsPlus scheme and enhancing the incentive to recruit young jobseekers by increasing the youth age limit from 25 to 30 years, and ring-fencing places on the Work Placement Experience Programme, Community Employment and Tús schemes for eligible young people.
My Department also works closely with the Further Education and Training sector to provide access to training, upskilling and reskilling opportunities. These are likely to be of particular relevance to young people seeking to enter the labour market for the first time.