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EACEA National Policies Platform


3. Employment & Entrepreneurship

3.11 Current debates and reforms

Last update: 28 November 2023

Forthcoming policy developments

Pathways to Work 2021-2025

Pathways to Work 2021-2025 is the governments national employment services strategy and its overall framework for activation and employment support policy. The aim of this strategy is to assist people back to work as the economy and labour market recovers from Covid-19.

This strategy is a key part of the national Economic Recovery Plan. Its main goal is to ensure that as many job opportunities as possible are filled by people who are unemployed. It is designed to support those unemployed before the pandemic, those looking to return to work or join the workforce and those facing additional barriers to work, in order to promote better job opportunities outcomes for all including young people.

This strategy has five strands of action

  1. Working for Jobseekers - helping jobseekers prepare for and find employment as quickly as possible
  2. Working for Employers - making it easy for employers to recruit workers and to encourage recruitment of unemployed jobseekers, including young people
  3. Working for Work - ensuring that the welfare system supports and makes it easy for people to make the move into employment
  4. Working for All- Leaving no one behind - extending targeted employment supports to groups facing additional challenges accessing work such as people with disabilities, lone parents and minority groups, including Travellers. 

This section also references working for young people with disadvantage specifically and acknowledges the concern about the impact of Covid-19 on the employment and life prospects of young people.  

  1. Working with Evidence- delivering services and supports that are shown to work. 


Ongoing debates

Youth Unemployment and Covid-19

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the seasonally adjusted youth unemployment rate for 2019 averaged approximately 12.5%. It is well documented that young people in the labour market, (those under 25 years of age), were particularly vulnerable to the disruption caused by the pandemic. Young people account for 11.7% of the workforce but total 20% of all PUP claims. The high share of young people on the PUP during times of lockdown was driven by their likelihood to work in the most impacted sectors such as hospitality and retail. These sectors were typically among the first to close in times of increased incidence of Covid-19 and the last to reopen during the phased easing of restrictions.

As such, the changes in youth unemployment have been sharper than for any other age group, as sectors of the economy closed and then reopened. The CSO’s ‘Covid-19 adjusted’ monthly youth unemployment rate which includes all those in receipt of the PUP peaked at almost 70% in May 2020. It should be noted, that numbers in receipt of the PUP included some who- under standard unemployment definitions- would not be considered eligible for unemployment payments, such as students- the vast majority of whom are young people.

However, since the middle of 2021, there has been a sharp recovery across the labour market as public health restrictions eased and businesses and society were able to reopen. For young people this was evident in June and July 2021 following the reopening of hospitality and retail. Despite the partial re-introduction of public health restrictions in early December 2021, the traditional youth unemployment rate and Covid-19 adjusted youth unemployment rate at the end of the month were 9% and 11.4% respectively. This represents a sharp decline and convergence in the two rates compared to earlier in the pandemic.


Long-term youth unemployment

Social welfare payments to young unemployed people under 26 years of age are lower than for adult unemployed people. The Jobseeker Allowance rate for those unemployed people aged 18-24 is €117.70 and €208 for those over 25.

However, an individual aged 18-24 can be eligible for the full personal rate of €208 Jobseekers Allowance if they meet any of the conditions listed below

  • You have a qualified child
  • You are transferring directly to Jobseeker’s Allowance from Disability Allowance
  • You are participating in an approved training or education scheme- Back to Education Allowance (BTEA)
  • If you were in the care of the HSE, Child and Family Agency (TUSLA) during the 12 months before you reached the age of 18
  • If you are living independently and you receive Rent Supplement, Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS), Local Authority Housing or housing provided by certain Approved Housing Bodies. 


Equality for young job seekers

In recent years, social welfare payments to young unemployed people under 26 years of age were reduced to a lower level than adult unemployed people.

NYCI has called on the government to restore the full adult rate of €198 to young people on Jobseeker’s Allowance over the next two budgets. According to NYCI, ‘the imposition of lower rates on young jobseekers is contrary to the provisions of Article 40.1 of the Irish Constitution, which dictates that all citizens should be treated equally and must be addressed.’ However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been little work completed on restoring the full adult rate to young people.


Youth Employment Strategy

Social Justice Ireland have called for the adaption of the new Youth Employment Strategy as the current Programme for Government does not mention youth unemployment or a strategy to tackle it. Due to Covid-19, young people will be disproportionately affected by unemployment as the economy recovers from Covid-19. The new Government must build on the European Commission Youth Employment Support package to ‘bridge jobs for the next generation.’

It is clear that young people face a challenging labour market situation. The European Commission is proposing that a minimum of €22 billion be mobilized for a Youth Employment Support package to mitigate the effects of the pandemic for young people in the labour market. The new Government should use the strands of the Youth Employment Support Package as a guide to designing a strategy to deal with this crisis at a national level. 

These strands are

  1. Stepping up the outreach to vulnerable young people across the EU ages 15-29
  2. Vocational education and training
  3. Renewed interest in apprenticeships
  4. Additional measures to support youth employment including start-up incentives.