News & Media

Every person has a right to decent work – ESRI report lays bare the stark realities

2 June 2021

Statement by Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD
Spokesperson on Education, Enterprise and Trade
  • Economic recovery strategy for young people required

Responding to an ESRI report that lays bare the stark realities of Ireland’s young workers, people with disabilities and migrant workers, Labour enterprise and education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said Government’s lack of ambition for a recovery for all is damaging. It’s clear that a stand alone economic recovery strategy for young people will be required to tackle the youth unemployment.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin said:

“Every person in this country has a right to decent work, decent working conditions and decent standards of living. This report lays bare the stark reality that women, young people, migrants and those who had the fewest opportunities in education are vulnerable to exploitation and low pay. Too many jobs are still low paid and many people experience job insecurity or uncertainty about how many hours they will work every week.

“A huge proportion of our workforce are just about getting by, and poor working protections is a large part of the reason why. For many, the weekly wage or monthly salary barely meets the cost of a mortgage or rent, childcare and living expenses. Any extra cost, an unexpected medical bill, back to school expenses, extra fuel costs, brings worry and concern to people. When people are working all week but barely getting by, then we must realise that as a country we are failing our citizens.

“We need to be ambitious for every worker in this country and yesterday’s recovery plan announced by Government failed to inspire hope and ambition in many people for their future. It’s clear from this report that we need to increase the minimum wage to become a living wage. Labour has long called for a living wage, so that people can afford a basic, decent standard of living. This wage must be evidence-based to avoid the false use of the term ‘living wage’ as we have seen in the UK, where their national minimum wage was merely rebranded without aligning the wage level to evidence of the cost of living.

“Before the pandemic, young people faced poor employment conditions, insecure work, no right to say no to their boss out of hours and high rents. We are at risk of losing another generation of young people, many of whom are about to experience their second economic recession. This Government needs to step up and deliver for the young people of Ireland in the same way that they are delivering for future generations. It was disappointing that few references were made yesterday to young people in the Government’s recovery strategy. We need to see a clear, stand alone economic plan to get our young people back to work.

“A very troubling aspect of the ESRI report is that women, ethnic minority respondents, those with a disability, non-Irish nationals and non-Catholics all report higher rates of discrimination in the workplace. We know from the National Disability Authority that people with disabilities are only half as likely to be in employment as others of working age. In some cases, people cannot access work because employers are unwilling or unable to accommodate their disabilities. The Government must refocus its efforts and engage with community and voluntary organisations to understand what can be done to both widen access to work for people with disabilities as well as tackle workplace discrimination where it arises.

“The world of work as we know it is in flux and Covid has been the great disrupter. Old certainties are gone and for many people in society, the promise of a job for life has disappeared. As we emerge from the pandemic and seek to lower unemployment levels, we need to make sure that we are ambitious about the future of work. We need to make sure that all workers have at least a minimum decent standard of living. We need to build a labour market offers a sense of hope and genuine opportunity for all our people.”