Tuesday, 2 March 2010
Department of Social and Family Affairs
Question 371: To ask the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of persons who have made PRSI Class S contributions who have applied or inquired about seeking jobseeker's benefit in 2007, 2008 and 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10383/10]
Question 372: To ask the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of persons who have had applications for jobseeker's benefit refused due to their status as PRSI Class S contributions in each of the years 2007, 2008 and 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10384/10]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 371 and 372 together.
Self-employed people are liable for PRSI at the Class S rate of 3% and are consequently eligible for a narrower range of benefits than general employees who, together with their employers, pay a total social insurance contribution of 14.05%, excluding levies, under the full-rate PRSI Class A.
Self-employed workers are not insured against short-term benefits such as illness and jobseeker's payments - these are only available to persons covered by PRSI Classes A, E, H and P. This reflects the need for coverage for various contingencies, the rate of contributions that self-employed persons pay, the practicalities of administering and controlling access to short-term payments and the annualised system of contributions that these same persons enjoy. A system of separate arrangements for employed and self-employed workers within a social insurance context is common in other European social protection systems.
There are no immediate plans to extend cover for short-term benefits to this group of insured workers. Any such measure would have significant financial implications and would have to be considered within a budgetary context. Consideration would also have to be given to an appropriate increase in the rate of the PRSI Class S contribution.
Self-employed workers who do not qualify for an insurance-based benefit may establish entitlement to assistance-based payments such as Jobseekers Allowance. They can apply for the means-tested Jobseeker's Allowance if their business ceases or if they are on low income as a result of a downturn in demand for their services. In general their means will take account of the level of earnings in the last twelve months in determining their expected income for the following year. In the current climate, however, account is taken of the downward trend in the economy. It is accepted that future earnings may be lower than those of previous years and this is factored in projecting future earnings, with account being taken of the potential for significant upward or downward variations in income from one year to the next.
The Department does not maintain statistics of the type sought by the Deputy.