THE IRISH CONGRESS of Trade Unions (ICTU) has hit out at ‘underemployment’ in Ireland and supported findings that a social welfare system does not act as a disincentive from working.
In a new study, ICTU identified a reduction in the number of hours for those in employment as an issue. Since 1992, the average number of hours for a hotel or restaurant worker has fallen by 11.2 hours, from 42.3 to 31.4 hour per week. The report notes that:
“There has been a decline in working hours for the generally low paid workers, while the hours of other occupation groups have been largely stable”.
The paper by ICTU looked at comparatives with other European countries. It was noted that previous evidence had shown that 5% of the Irish workforce was paid at or below the minimum wage. This puts the figure of people on minimum wage at around 108,000. The minimum wage in Ireland stands at €8.65 for adult workers.
In Poland it was found that 1.3 million employees earned less than the minimum wage. This accounted for around 13% of all workers.
In the report called ‘Labour Market Monitor’, support is given for a recent paper produced by the ESRI on ‘Welfare Targeting and Work Incentives’. In the study it was found that the majority of workers are financially better off in employment than on welfare.
This ESRI paper found that only 28% of those unemployed have a replacement ratio of 70% or more. The replacement ratio refers to the amount that welfare would cover of what that person is already earning. The vast majority of people (87%) receive more in work than they would on welfare.
In the ICTU report it states:
Though some people, particularly those with children, may receive more from social welfare, as the vast majority of unemployed have no children this does not have a great impact on the overall numbers better off working versus on social welfare.
Another issue looked at in the study is the level of emigration. In figures taken from last year, Ireland was found to have had 1.9% emigration as a percentage of its total population. There was an increase of 43% on the numbers of people leaving the country between the years 2008 to 2011.
The assessment also provides an analysis of the European situation, looking specifically at Germany and Poland. In Germany, a minimum wage was only introduced following elections in September last year. Prior to this there were reports of workers receiving as little as 26 cents an hour. A minimum wage of €8.50 has been in place since last month.