Grim toll of Covid-19 on our workforce: Ireland hit hard by job losses and lay-offs


Workers in Ireland are more likely than their counterparts in most other EU member states to have lost their job or experienced reduced working hours or temporary lay-offs during the Covid-19 crisis.

New figures published by the European Commission reveal the grim toll of the pandemic on our workforce and workplaces. They show the Irish labour market has been one of the worst affected among the EU’s 27 countries in terms of the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on employment, with low-paid workers hit the worst. They reveal that Irish workers had the second-highest level of risk among Europeans of becoming unemployed in the second quarter of 2020.
It is estimated that 6pc of the Irish labour force lost their job between April and June. Only Spain had a higher rate of 8pc. The figures also highlight how low-income earners in the Republic were disproportionately affected by the pandemic as they were three times more likely to have lost their job than those on higher salaries. Only 3pc of high earners in Ireland were made redundant compared to 10pc of low earners. Low earners are classified as those earning less than two-thirds of the national average hourly wage. Young people aged 16-24 from Ireland were the third most likely to lose their job within the EU during the second quarter of 2020 after Spain and Portugal.
It was estimated 13pc of that age group in the Republic became unemployed over the period– more than twice the rate among the general workforce at 6pc. However, the figures from across the EU showed the probability of losing one’s job during the Covid-19 crisis was generally lower than the likelihood of working fewer hours. On that measure, Ireland had the joint highest rate in the EU with Greece with 27pc of the Irish labour force experiencing either temporary lay-offs or reduced working time. The European Commission said the figures showed widely varying degrees of risk across different employment sectors. According to Eurostat, the Commission’s statistical division, the comparatively high rates of Irish people being made redundant or working on reduced hours as a result of the Covid-19 crisis are explained by the high proportion of young Irish workers on low salaries. “In general, the risk of facing a loss of income and deeper poverty varies widely across age groups, economic sectors and countries,” Eurostat said. It added: “In labour markets, temporary layoffs, including reduced working hours, concerned millions of workers, while the risk of losing one’s job was more limited as it was mitigated by short-term support schemes.” The European Commission said it was essential during the Covid-19 crisis to rapidly provide information to enable policymakers to assess the effect of income distribution in 2020. It found that the highest risk for workers across the EU to be temporarily laid-off or face reduced hours was in the accommodation and food sector where 50pc were likely to experience a reduction in their normal work levels. The figure for Irish workers at risk of reduced working hours in the food and accommodation sector was 71pc – the second-highest rate in the EU after Cyprus with 72pc. Other workers most likely to suffer temporary lay-off or reduced working hours were those working in the arts and entertainment sector, construction and in wholesale and retail outlets. The lowest risk workers were farmers and those employed in the IT sector. Overall, the risk of losing one’s job was highest among temporary workers, young employed people aged 16-24 and low-skilled occupations. “The young, low-skilled and the accommodation and food sector workers are often over-represented in the low-income earner groups in many countries, and hence are at a higher risk,” the European Commission said.

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