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EACEA National Policies Platform


3. Employment & Entrepreneurship

3.6 Integration of young people in the labour market

Last update: 28 March 2024
On this page
  1. Youth employment measures
  2. Flexicurity measures focusing on young people
  3. Reconciliation of private and working life for young people



Youth employment measures

The EU Youth Guarantee

The original youth guarantee was created in 2013, following a recommendation by the Council of Europe. It aimed to secure a smooth transition from school to work, support labour market integration and make sure that no young person is left out. The ‘Reinforced Youth Guarantee’ is a commitment by all Member States, including Ireland, from October 2020. It seeks to ensure that all young people under the age of 30 receive a good quality offer of employment, continued education, apprenticeship or traineeship within a period of four months of becoming unemployed or leaving education.

Central to the reinforced programme is the widening of the youth age bracket to include young people aged 25-29. As part of activation services provided by the Department of Social Protection via Intreo, young people under 25 receive the most intensive engagement. The Department intend to extend this up to age 29, as per the new reinforced Youth Guarantee, and are currently exploring the necessary system changes to allow for this to be put in place. 


National Measures

Pathways to Work 2021-2025 is is the Irish government’s national employment services strategy and overall framework for activation and employment support policy. Pathways to Work 2021-2025 is the government’s national employment services strategy; the government’s overall framework for activation and employment support policy. The strategy ties in with the national Economic Recovery Plan's second Pillar on ‘Helping people back into work’. Pathways to Work 2021-2025 aims to promote better job opportunity outcomes for all, by:

  • helping people back to work as the economy and labour market recovers from COVID-19 
  • supporting people who were unemployed before the pandemic, those looking to return to work or joining the workforce, and those facing additional barriers to work.

The strategy has a specific focus on tackling youth unemployment under the Strand of Working for All, committing to a number of actions aimed at supporting young jobseekers that reflect the recommendations of the EU Reinforced Youth Guarantee. These include:


Work Placement Experience Programme

The Work Placement Experience Programme (WPEP) is a 6-month, 30 hour per week voluntary work experience programme. The programme is for jobseekers aged between 18 and 65 years that are currently getting a qualifying social welfare payment and who have been unemployed for six months (156 days) or more. The weekly rate of payment is €311. The payment is not means assessed and participants retain entitlements for qualified adults and children and any underlying secondary welfare benefits they had an entitlement to prior to commencing the WPEP placement.

The Educational Training Board (ETBs) have developed an accredited Work Placement Experience module available to WPEP Participants the L3/L4/L5 Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI). A WPEP Mentoring training programme was developed and funded by ETBs and is available to Host Organisations to support the mentoring skills of mentors. Funding for the training element of WPEP was included in the Government’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan in its application to the EU Recovery and Resilience Facility.

This programme enables people to re-train and gain valuable work experience in a new type of employment whilst also incorporating an accredited training element. A person cannot take a placement where they have already built-up experience in the role.

Time spent on other schemes such as the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment and Community Employment may also be counted as part of the 6 month (156 day) qualifying criteria. An individual must transfer to a Jobseekers’ payment however, before they can take up the placement. 


JobsPlus for Youth

JobsPlus is an employer incentive which encourages employers to offer employment to jobseekers on the Live Register. Employers are paid an incentive monthly in arrears over a 2-year period. It provides 2 levels of regular payments, €7500 and €10,000 respectively, depending on the jobseeker’s age and duration of employment.

Under the Reinforced Youth Guarantee and Pathways to Work 2021-2025, the qualifying period for jobseekers to avail of JobsPlus for young people has been reduced to 4 months (104 days), in the previous 6 months. In line with the Reinforced Youth Guarantee, the age bracket for young people was expanded to now include all of those under 30 years of age. It is envisaged that this initiative will help those young people facing high barriers to employment to enter into the labour market.

Time in receipt of the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) may also be counted towards an individual’s eligibility. 


Public Employment Programmes (CE and Tús)

Under Pathways to Work 2021-2025, 3000 additional places on public employment programmes (CE and Tús) are being made available, 1000 of which are ring-fended for young people. 

The Community Employment (CE) programme (commonly known as the CE Scheme) is designed to help people who are long-term unemployed (or otherwise disadvantaged) to get back to work by offering part time (19.5 hours a week) and temporary placements in jobs based within local communities. The Scheme, which includes opportunities for training and development, acts as a stepping-stone back to employment. The general qualifying age for CE for those on the Live Register was reduced from 25 to 21 years in 2017. In general, all placements for those aged under 55 are for one year only, but if a CE participant is undertaking training to achieve a major award, the participant’s time can be extended by up to two years to allow them to complete the training which will enhance his or her overall employment prospects.

The Tús initiative is a community work placement scheme providing short-term working opportunities for unemployed people. The work opportunities are to benefit the community and are provided by community and voluntary organisations in both rural and urban areas. The Tús initiative is managed by local development companies and Údarás na Gaeltacha for the Department of Social Protection, which has overall responsibility for the scheme. Participants work 19.5 hours a week and the placement lasts 12 months. 

Time in receipt of Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment may also be counted towards an individual’s eligibility for CE or Tús. 


Employment and Youth Activation Charter

The Employment and Youth Activation Charter was launched in 2014 as part of the Youth Guarantee commitments. Employers who sign this Charter commit that at least 50% of candidates considered for interview will be taken from the Live Register. Employers also implement a selection of measures which seek to prime those who are out of work to take up jobs. Under Pathways to Work, the Department of Social Protection commits to partner with employers, to relaunch the Employer Youth Employment Charter in 2022. In doing so, firms will commit to provide work placement and traineeship opportunities to young people referred by Intreo. 


Vocational Training and Opportunities Scheme 

The Vocational Training and Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) provides a range of courses to meet the education and training needs of unemployed people. To be eligible for the scheme, participants must be over 21 years of age, unemployed and getting certain social welfare payments for at least six months. The scheme is aimed at unemployed people who are early school-leavers. The aim of the scheme is to gives participants opportunities to improve their general level of education, gain certification, develop their skills and prepare for employment, self-employment and further education and training. VTOS is operated through local Education and Training Boards. 



The Youthreach programme provides opportunities for early school leavers in terms of basic education, personal development, vocational training, and work experience. Youthreach is discussed in more detail in section 6.3 Preventing early leaving from education and training (ELET)


Skills for Life Employment Support Scheme

The Skills for Life Employment Support Scheme is aimed at young people aged between 18 and 24 years who want to train with the Irish Defense Forces. The scheme gives participants an opportunity to learn new skills and gain qualifications that will help them to pursue further education or to enter the workforce. The scheme runs over a ten-week period. Under Pathways to Work 2021-2025, the Irish Government committed to repeat and expand the ‘Skills for Life’ training and experience programme for young unemployed people. 


Youth Employability Initiative

The Youth Employability Initiative is a fund of up to €1 million which aims provide funding to voluntary youth services to support programmes that target young people to improve their employability and achieve career goals. The initiative is supported by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY) and funding from the Dormant Accounts Fund which is overseen by the Department of Rural and Community Development. Funding of the initiative is delivered by local Education and Training Boards.


Flexicurity measures focusing on young people

Flexicurity is an integrated strategy for enhancing both flexibility and security in the labour market.

A 2016 report on the Flexicurity System in Ireland found that ‘the flexicurity system is not operating as it should in Ireland and there seems to be very little political impetus to change the status quo.’ In addition, ‘in relation to the requirement of a modern social welfare system, it is quite clear that the Irish system, in its current format, is not designed to promote the ideals of the flexicurity system.’


Reconciliation of private and working life for young people

In Ireland, there is no legislation that allows employees to apply for flexible working arrangements. Flexible working arrangements are usually at the discretion of the employer.

However, the Civil Service in Ireland does operate flexible work arrangements. These include

  • Flexible working hours
  • Work sharing
  • Shorter working year scheme for civil servants
  • Career breaks
  • Special Incentive Career Break Scheme for Civil Servants
  • E-Working and teleworking
  • Guidance for employers on part-time work is set out in The Code of Practice on Access to Part-Time Work. It sets out the opportunities, range of jobs and policies expected to improve access to part-time work.

The rights of part-time employees are covered under the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001.