No emigration safety valve for the generation of a pandemic, because the recovery plan changes social benefits


Recession, housing crisis, disproportionately affected youth and vulnerable groups, people considering emigrating – haven’t we been here before?

Well, yes and no. The launch of the government’s economic stimulus plan is another document filled with aspirations, some of which were already released during the employment boost last July, and the economic impact of the pandemic may prove to be a type of trip different from usual years. -long slog of a “normal” recession. So maybe we’ll get back to normal soon, and if so, the real question should be, is “normal” good enough?

The plan is built around a successful vaccination program and more than € 3.5 billion in expenditure support and just under € 1 billion under the Recovery and Resilience Fund of the ‘EU, Taoiseach Micheal Martin stating that this will boost a jobs-driven economy. The plan is to have 2.5 million people at work by 2024, surpassing pre-pandemic levels.

This is a laudable goal, but the kind of jobs to be provided will also be closely scrutinized, especially since again this week a joint report by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC ) and the Institute for Economic and Social Research (ESRI) described how things were far from perfect before the pandemic arrived. Using benchmark data up to 2019, he found that young Irish workers were six times more likely to have temporary contracts than those over 25. He also pointed out that the employment rate for people with disabilities, at 41 percent, was 32 percentage points lower than the national rate. average, with high unemployment rates also observed among black and Muslim respondents and, more specifically, among Irish Travelers.

Given the current housing and rental crisis, the struggles of young citizens are perhaps best summed up by a meme doing the rounds recently, comparing “my parents in their thirties”: “We should probably consider an extension if we do. are having a fourth child, “complete with photo of a house – and” me in my thirties “:” I will never recover financially from this purchase “, complete with photo of a JustEat sticker.

Yet despite all the talk about emigration – described by ESRI co-author Professor Frances McGinnity as a “safety valve” in previous recessions – where are you heading in a global pandemic?

And if the new economic stimulus package is to be credible, it must avoid the kind of brain drain that has plagued the country in previous difficult times.

There is a lot to the plan that is both dignified and a little nebulous. For example: research underway on the best approach to pilot a universal basic income, via the low wages commission, with recommendations in early 2022; more research involving the Low Pat Commission, this time examining the best way to introduce a living wage in Ireland, to be completed before the end of the year; and the adoption by the end of this year of the General Regime of a bill on the introduction of statutory sickness benefit, following a public consultation. The economic stimulus package reaffirms the commitment to implement the roadmap for social inclusion and its stated goal of reducing persistent poverty to 2% or less by 2025.

Payments in the event of a pandemic

In the short term, however, the focus will be on those who receive payments in the event of a pandemic. Unemployment benefit in the event of a pandemic will remain at its current level until September, before being phased out until next February, with an earlier timetable for students, while the wage subsidy program will be extended until ‘at the end of the year and businesses can apply for enhanced reopening payments.

Bríd O’Brien, head of policy and media at INOU, sums it up by saying that if – if – we finally emerge from a health crisis, with the increased dangers of the virus behind us, then the delay for payments may be sufficient if the economy rebounds quickly from the bumps of the past 16 months. Researching before plans before implementation can seem like a kick in the long grass, she says.

A new aspect of the payment support structure was raised by Employment and Welfare Minister Heather Humphreys, who said she wanted to explore the possibility of introducing a salary-linked benefit to replace Jobseeker’s Allowance for people facing sudden job loss. This would mean a payment capped at a certain rate for a limited period of time to guard against a steep reduction in income for anyone who has lost their job.

It has raised a few eyebrows, but Bríd O’Brien feels that this is actually a reestablishment of the politics that existed until the early 90s, and on that basis is to be welcomed.

However, not all businesses will reopen.

Some areas, especially rural areas, will be more dependent on domestic tourism, which may not return until next year. And the pandemic has also highlighted the digital divide, between those who can work from home or online, and those who cannot. The full impact of the pandemic has yet to be seen and

Bríd O’Brien is concerned that our social protection system has not always been focused on what is best for the person he is trying to help, and is rather focused on ‘getting a job – n ‘any job’.

Sean Lemass loved the quote “A rising tide lifts all boats”. The current Taoiseach will have to hope that if we are all in the same boat, we will remain so even if we are sailing in calmer waters.


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