Covid supports stabilised labour market but inequality persists – study

April 25, 2024

Employment and social welfare supports during the Covid pandemic helped to stabilise the labour market but inequalities persist, according to a new study from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) and the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).

The research explored the equality impact of the pandemic on the labour market, comparing the situation pre and post-pandemic.

Findings show that employment rates rose for almost all groups analysed post-pandemic, while unemployment and labour market inactivity generally fell.

The report describes the labour market recovery as ‘extraordinary’ and said it highlights the protective and stabilising role of significant public investment in the form of Government supports for businesses, employers and individuals.

However, the study found that while employment recovered, the patterns of inequalities that existed before the pandemic are the same after the pandemic.

There is also evidence that some groups have fallen further behind, for example people with lower education levels faired poorer than other groups, both in terms of labour market participation and the nature of work available to them, during the period.

Researchers found that disabled people’s economic activation pre and post-pandemic showed little change, underlining the need for targeted employment strategies for marginalised groups.

Employment rates among disabled people who identified as strongly limited in their activities fell further during the pandemic.

The study found that access to remote working was not evenly spread with workers with lower education and those living in rural areas benefitting less.

The report also reveals that young people experienced the greatest falls in employment and participation during the pandemic.

The research concludes that Covid-related supports could be usefully activated in future labour market crises, if they were carefully designed and adequately resourced.

It also highlights the need for good data on unpaid work in Ireland and an absence of labour market data on key groups such as disabled people, and ethnic minority and LGBTI groups.

“While the labour market has seen a remarkable recovery post Covid-19 pandemic, highlighting the stabilising role of significant public investment, we know that inequality persists,” said Eoin Roynane, Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.

“It is critical now that the State embeds this learning, ensuring access to decent, quality work for all,” Mr Roynane said.

Author of the report, Anousheh Alamir of the ESRI, said that potentially the greatest legacy of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Irish labour market has been the rise of remote working.

“Yet not all jobs can be performed remotely, and some groups, such as those with lower qualifications and those based in rural areas, have not shared equally in access to remote working,” Ms Alamir said.

“The full consequences of remote working have yet to play out and this underscores the importance of ongoing monitoring of its effects on work and workers,” she added.

Article Source – Covid supports stabilised labour market but inequality persists – study – RTE

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