New research has found that young people, people with disabilities, Travellers and East European migrants are at a much higher risk of disadvantage in the labour market.
Monitoring Decent Work in Ireland, published by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) and the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), found that these groups had experienced “consistent inequalities” in access to employment, job security and seniority.
On job security, the study found that one-third of younger workers — those aged from 18 to 24 — had a temporary contract in 2019, compared with just 6% of those aged from 25 to 64.
The research also showed that the employment rate for people with disabilities, at 41%, was 32 percentage points below the national average of 73%.
Census data on ethnicity and religion for 2016 revealed high unemployment rates among Black and Muslim respondents relative to others, though unemployment rates among Irish Travellers, at 80%, were highest of all the groups measured.
Low pay rates
The study also looked at those on low pay, defined as less that €12.16 an hour, and found that 60% of young workers, 38% of Eastern European migrants, and 32% of lone parents were on low pay rates.
One-fifth of ethnic-minority workers reported discrimination in the workplace. The figure for those with a disability was 14%, while 11% of non-Irish workers experienced workplace discrimination.
Just over one-third of the general workforce worked in a professional or managerial job, but among Eastern European workers, the figure was only 14%.
The study pointed out that, while employment rates rose for many of these groups during the period of labour-market growth from 2014 to 2019, group differences were maintained.
Impact of poor-quality work
“This highlights the importance of the availability of jobs and growth in the labour market for different groups’ ability to realise the right to work,” it said.
Reacting to the findings, IHREC said Ireland’s national equality strategies left the issue of earnings largely unaddressed.
“Future iterations of these strategies should consider issues relating to the quality of decent work as a whole, rather than focusing solely on getting people into work,” it said.
IHREC’s Chief Commissioner, Sinéad Gibney (pictured), said that policy-makers should ensure that decent work was prioritised as Ireland moved out of the pandemic, adding that poor-quality work, or exclusion from paid work, could prevent access to other human rights, such as health and housing.