Wednesday 18 October 2017

ESRI bid to avoid fresh debacle as it plans new dole report

Laura Noonan

Laura Noonan

THE Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) is taking steps to avoid a repeat of the debacle over a report which claimed people were better off on the dole than working, the Irish Independent has learned.

The state-funded think tank now plans to have its next research on the politically charged topic reviewed by internal and external experts before it's published.

The news comes a month after the ESRI withdrew a controversial 'working paper' by its economists that claimed up to 44pc of people with children could be better off on the dole.

The withdrawal led to accusations that the think tank had been politically influenced to drop the research -- charges which were strenuously denied by the ESRI.

A different team of ESRI researchers is now working on a new piece of research around 'incentives to work' that will compare income for workers to incomes for those on welfare, and will also look at the cost of working.

Experts

The ESRI distanced itself from the findings of the first report on the basis that it was a 'working paper' and its methods and findings had not yet been reviewed by other economists.

The Irish Independent has learned that the ESRI has decided the new report will not be published in 'working paper' form and will only be released once its findings have been reviewed by experts both inside and outside the ESRI.

This means that the ESRI will have to stand over whatever the results of the survey are, regardless of how they are received politically.

Prof Richard Tol, who co-authored the original controversial report and has since left the ESRI, had offered to work on a revised version of the report but told the Irish Independent he was "stonewalled" by his former colleagues.

Philip O'Connell, head of the ESRI's social research division, confirmed that he had not replied to Prof Tol's offer.

"Richard expressed a view that one way would be to revise the working paper with up to five authors. We didn't share that view," he said.

The ESRI had its 'incentives to work' research in train since February and was "inclined to stick with that", Mr O'Connell said.

The 'incentives to work' research will use detailed data from 2010, information which Prof Tol claimed he didn't have access to when he prepared his report.

Irish Independent

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