Written answers

Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection

Programme for Government

Photo of Violet WynneViolet Wynne (Clare, Sinn Fein)
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413. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the actions taken to date to implement the commitment in the Programme for Government to improve jobseeker supports for persons aged under 24 years of age over the lifetime of the Government; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2983/22]

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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As part of its Social Contract under the Programme for Government, published in October 2020, the Government committed to improve Jobseeker supports for people under 24 over the lifetime of the Government.

There are just over 13,160 jobseekers aged between 18 and 24 years who are in receipt of Jobseeker's Allowance of whom just under 9,000 are paid an age related rate. Age related rates for young Jobseekers Allowance recipients were introduced on a phased basis from 2009 to tackle high youth unemployment and avoid long term welfare dependency. Where a young jobseeker participates in approved full-time education or training they will receive the maximum rate of payment.

Age related Jobseeker's Allowance rates do not apply those with qualifying child dependents, who were in care of the Tusla immediately before they turned 18 or who are living independently of the family home and are in receipt of qualifying state housing supports. The age related rates do not apply to the Jobseeker’s Benefit scheme which is a short term social insurance income support subject to an individual’s PRSI record.

Prior to Covid-19, the seasonally adjusted youth unemployment rate for 2019 averaged approximately 12.5 percent. Following the onset of the pandemic, the CSO’s "COVID-19 adjusted" monthly youth unemployment rate, which includes all those in receipt of the PUP, increased dramatically, peaking at almost 70 percent in May 2020. According to the latest data from the CSO, the "COVID-19 adjusted" youth unemployment rate for December 2021 was 11.4 percent while the standard youth unemployment rate for December 2021 was 9 percent.

There has been a slight increase in jobseeker numbers since the announcement of new health restrictions on December 7th, to limit the spread of the omicron variant. As of January 14th under 25s account for 14 percent of PUP recipients and 10 percent of Live Register recipients.

The Government’s national employment strategy, Pathways to Work, launched last July, includes targeted measures aimed at young unemployed people who have been disproportionately impacted by Covid 19. It also contains education, training and other supports for those who lost employment pre pandemic and those young people seeking their first job.

A key initiative of the strategy is the Work Placement Experience Programme (WPEP) which is available on a voluntary basis and provides qualify work experience for people, including young people, who have been unemployed for 6 months or more. Participants on the WPEP receive €311 per week.

The Pathways to Work strategy contains provision for 50,000 additional further education and training places and the allocation of at least 1,000 out of the 3,000 new Community Employment and Tús places for young people. Additional places have also been provided on the JobsPlus recruitment subsidy, with the subsidy being available, on an earlier basis than normal, to employers when they recruit young people.

Using these measures, Pathways to Work 2021-2025 aims to reduce the youth unemployment rate back to or below the 2019 average of 12.5% by 2023.

In addition, under Budget 2022, I increased all core social welfare payments by €5 per week including the age related rate which increased from €112.70 to €117.70. Where recipients engage in approved education or training they will be entitled to the maximum rate which has increased from €203 to €208.

I trust that this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

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