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January 30, 2007



Perhaps we should approach from a completely different angle and look at the level of participation in the economy.

In 2005, the EU-25 employment rate was 63.8% and the Irish rate was slightly higher at 67.6%. However while this may look like a good performance, if you strip out foreign workers at say 8-10% of the workforce then, Irish participation looks pretty lousy.

Participation in the workforce by Irish people, in particular by Irish women is very poor. I feel that this is the key to much of the comparative poverty. The question is why are so many Irish people not participating in an economy with lots of work available.

I feel that the biggest issue is a lack of education and to a lesser extent training. A high standard of education is expected by many employers and clearly the drop out rate at second level remains a huge barrier for many to get any sort of decent job. Training is also an issue, however if the person does not have the basics, then money spent on training is wasted.

The participation rate is supposed to have increased to 70% by the end of 2006, as has the rate in Germany. However Irish unemployment has increased, let alone those on other SW payments. Germany's unemployment has fallen dramatically.

However Michael is right in the sense that the add-ons to SW make it a unsound decision to participate legally in the workforce for many. If one examines the SW Statistical reports in detail, it shows that over 60% of those claiming Child Benefit for 5 or more children are wholly or mainly living on SW Benefits or Assistance. This however is not a reason to increase child dependent rates rather to use child benefit and Family Income Supplement as a carrot to return to the (formal) workforce. The stick is perhaps an issue for discussion some other time.

I doubt whether child care is the issue that it is claimed. Many employer provided and subsidised creches are not full. An economy like Ireland's should have a participation rate of 75-80%, if the local population is suitably qualified. Perhaps the problem is that second level completion rates on Dublin's Northside are below those of leafy South Dublin - 25 years ago.


I would further add that Sweden, Denmark with Netherlands have some of the highest participation rates in the EU. Sweden & Denmark have also accepted very small numbers of foreign workers compared to Ireland.


I certainly tried to address the issues of participation - especially the obstacles to taking up work. You're right to emphasise education and skill training. Otherwise, people will just look into a life of dead-end minimum wage jobs that could never pay enough.

As to childcare - I'm not sure what the percentage of employees have access to employer-provided creches (you have a figure?). However, I doubt there's much of that among small retailers and the hospitality sectors where so many lone parents seek work.

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