Ireland’s Young Workers 6 times More Likely to Be on Temporary Contracts than those over 25

Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission/ESRI Publish First-of-its-Kind Study on Decent Work.

New research sets out how young people, people with disabilities, Travellers and East European migrants are at much higher risk of disadvantage around employment and have less access to what the International Labour Organisation defines as decent work. The report entitled “Monitoring Decent Work in Ireland” sets out how these groups have seen consistent inequalities in access to employment, job security and seniority.

The new research published by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (‘the Commission’) and the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI)  holds insights for Ireland’s post-COVID work environment, by looking at the realities of people’s access to Decent Work before the pandemic.

Following a review of international approaches and a consultation process with 33 organisations, the report looks at key dimensions of work: access to work; adequate earnings; employee voice (representation and job control); security and stability of work; equality of opportunity and treatment in employment; and health and safety.

The report then provides baseline figures across different groups in Ireland from available survey sources including the Labour Force Survey 2019, Census 2016, Equality Data 2019 and European Working Conditions Survey 2015.

Key Equality Findings:

  • Regarding security and stability of work, one third (33 per cent) of younger workers (18-24) had a temporary contract, compared to 6 per cent of 25-64 year olds in 2019.
  • 34 per cent of the general workforce worked in a professional/managerial job, but only 14 per cent of Eastern European workers.
  • The employment rate for people with disabilities (41 per cent) was 32 percentage points below the national average (73 per cent), highlighting a significant gap in employment.
  • Census data on ethnicity and religion for 2016 reveals high unemployment rates among Black and Muslim respondents relative to others, though unemployment rates among Irish Travellers, at 80 per cent, were highest of all the groups measured.
  • Just over one fifth (22 per cent) of employees had low hourly pay (defined as less than €12.16 per hour in 2019). Low hourly pay rates were much more common among some groups: 60 per cent of young workers (aged 18-24), 38 per cent of Eastern European migrants and 32 per cent of lone parents.
  • 20 per cent ethnic minority workers reported discrimination in the workplace, almost three times the average rate of discrimination (7 per cent). 14 per cent of workers with a disability experienced workplace discrimination and11 per cent of non-Irish workers.
  • Over a period of labour market growth (2014-2019), while group differences were maintained, employment rates grew for many of these groups, including younger workers, non-EU migrants, lone parents and those with lower educational qualifications. This highlights the importance of the availability of jobs and growth in the labour market for different groups’ ability to realise the right to work.

The report’s analysis includes lessons stemming from the findings for Ireland:

  • A focus on decent work should be a priority for Ireland’s implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
  • Earnings are largely unaddressed within Ireland’s national equality strategies (such as the Migrant Integration Strategy or the National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy). Future iterations of these strategies should consider issues relating to the quality of decent work as a whole, rather than focusing solely on getting people into work.
  • Prejudice and discrimination  play a significant role in accounting for the employment gap between Travellers and non-Travellers.
  • Trade union membership is largely unaddressed in overall employment strategies or equality strategies in Ireland.
  • As a signatory to international agreements such as the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural rights, Ireland has committed to progressing access to decent work. This set of indicators provides a basis for assessing progress. It also identifies key gaps in the data needed to monitor decent work in Ireland.   

Sinéad Gibney, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated:

“This research shines new light on the ways people of different genders, ages, family status, experience of disability and race are treated when it comes to paid employment.

“As Ireland moves carefully out of the pandemic, this data should assist policy makers to ensure that decent work is prioritised to deliver fair incomes, workplace security, social protection, freedom to organise, and participation in the decisions that affect our lives.

“Examining decent work from a rights-based perspective, considering minimum standards of work, representation and non-discrimination is important to expand our understanding the labour market, particularly how exclusion from paid work and poor-quality work are threats to realising other human rights, such as health and housing.”

Lead author of the report, Frances McGinnity of the ESRI stated:

This report shows how certain groups are more likely to be occupying disadvantaged positions in paid work: younger workers, East European migrants, those with a disability, lone parents. Yet we still know little about informal work or unpaid work in the home in Ireland, nor can we report rates of pay and information on job quality for minority ethnic groups, including Irish Travellers. These are important gaps to fill for our understanding of decent work in Ireland.’