Non-permanent employment is not an extensive feature of employment in Ireland

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The ESRI has found that non-permanent or “contingent” employment has fallen back to pre-recession levels and lies below the EU average.

A new study by the ESRI, “Measuring Contingent Employment in Ireland”, which was sponsored by the Workplace Relations Commission, notes that, while contingent employment rose to 10 per cent of total employment during the recession, it had fallen back to pre-recession levels of 8 to 9 per cent by 2016. Contingent employment in Ireland remained consistently below the EU average over the period.

The report finds that temporary work accounts for 80 per cent of non-permanent work and freelance work makes up the balance. In the latter regard, while freelance employment has increased marginally over time, it accounts for only 1 in 50 persons in employment.

The report pointed out that, in contrast to other EU countries, temporary employment in Ireland is not concentrated among low-skilled occupations. Rather, it is found across all education levels, sectors, occupations and organisational sizes. This is reflected in the pay differential between permanent and temporary employment (the “pay penalty”) which was 21 per cent in Ireland in 2014 compared to the EU average of 29 per cent.

Temporary employment did not generally act as a stepping stone to permanent employment. Notwithstanding that, the report also found that temporary workers report similar levels of job satisfaction as their permanent counterparts.

Professor Seamus McGuinness of the ESRI stated “the issue of contingent employment is highly topical and it is important that we begin to establish an evidence base for Ireland. The evidence in this report suggests that it is not an increasing phenomenon in Ireland. The contrasting impacts of temporary contracts on earnings and job satisfaction suggests that workers might enter such relationships for a variety for reasons.”

Ms. Oonagh Buckley, Director General of the Workplace Relations Commission said that “Employment relationships are becoming more complex and it is important that legislators and policy makers understand those trends when considering whether and what changes should be made to employment law. This research by the ESRI is helping the Commission to bring visibility to possible emerging structural shifts in employment patterns as part of its function to commission research and monitor developments in the workplace. I want to thank the ESRI for carrying out this important work and hope that it is of value as part of the broader public debate about the future of work in Ireland.”

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