News & Media

Withdrawing pandemic supports can’t be at the expense of women and younger workers

21 June 2021

Statement by Senator Marie Sherlock
Seanad Whip and Spokesperson on Employment Affairs, Media, Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht

Speaking after the release of ESRI research on the impact of Covid-19 income supports on the Irish welfare system, Labour Party spokesperson on employment affairs Senator Marie Sherlock said that the Government must ensure that the winding-down of the PUP and EWSS benefits do not result in further ‘scarring’ effects for women and younger workers.

The ESRI’s new paper ‘Covid-19 and the Irish welfare system’ demonstrates the profound impact that the pandemic income supports have had in averting the kinds of job losses that were in prospect in March 2020. At all points of the economic distribution, income and job losses were mitigated by the emergency policy response undertaken by the State. For those in the poorest quintile of Irish society, incomes actually rose slightly, as the power of concerted state action to fight low income and poverty was revealed.

However, the paper also shows the risks of winding down the PUP and EWSS schemes before job opportunities have fully returned to the labour market, particularly for disadvantaged groups. Young workers, women, and single people without children are most at risk of seeing their disposable incomes fall if the schemes are wound up – for instance, 17% of 18-24 year-olds stand to lose more than a fifth of their income in this scenario.

Senator Sherlock said:

“Today’s ESRI research presents yet more evidence as to the scarring effect that the pandemic stands to have on Irish workers, particularly young workers facing an uncertain labour market at the same time as welfare supports are to be withdrawn.

“I’d also note that recent scaremongering from certain business owners, who claim the continued existence of PUP makes it harder to find staff, is entirely dismissed by these findings. As little as 5% of PUP recipients are disincentivised from working. I’d suggest these business owners take a look at the pay and conditions they themselves offer before sounding off about the ‘damage’ done by much-needed State supports.

“This research builds on prior evidence showing us that the impact of the 2008 crash has never worn off, with the earnings of this generation of young people lower than the earnings of their parents for the first time ever. Unless the government acts with a sense of urgency, and withdraws the pandemic supports in a sensitive, time-appropriate manner, we run the risk of a new generation facing entirely avoidable hardship and life-long scarring”.