One in every seven people on the dole have never worked a single day in their lives, "disturbingly shocking" figures reveal.
The number of people confined to the 'dole for life' is highlighted in figures released by Social Protection Minister Joan Burton's department, which appear to vindicate her previous comments that to some people in Ireland, living on welfare benefits has become a "lifestyle choice".
Colm Keaveney, the rebel chairman of the Labour Party who obtained the figures, said it was startling how many people the system has "facilitated" in not making any contribution to the State. "It's about social justice, plain and simple, and these disturbingly shocking figures require a full investigation," he said.
The statistics, broken down by age and by region, show, for the first time, the extent of people who have been totally reliant on Jobseeker's Benefit to survive throughout their adult life, without making any contribution whatsoever by way of PRSI payments.
Many people mistakenly refer to the Live Register figures as a measure of unemployment, which currently stands at 426,900 people. However, according to the real unemployed figures, contained in the CSO Quarterly National Household Survey, the number of unemployed persons is 294,600.
As these figures reveal, 43,375 people, or one in seven of those in receipt of the €188-a-week Jobseeker's Benefit, have never made any contribution to the PRSI system, in other words, they have never been in employment.
Of those, one in three, or 13,222, are aged 35 or older, which makes them far more likely to have children, which Mr Keaveney said is an intolerable situation. "Based on the figures, there is a strong possibility of children growing up with parents who have never contributed to the State."
The numbers also show that there are more than 2,677 people aged between 60 and 65 who have never made any PRSI contribution.
Mr Keaveney also said the figures show the extent to which the black economy in certain counties has been allowed to flourish, which causes those on low incomes to pay the price. "Figures like this cut to the core and place the country's social cohesion at risk. Everyone who is in a position to make a contribution must do so," he said.
PRSI must be paid by all employees, whether full-time or part-time, and self-employed people with a minimum annual income who are aged 16 or over.
The revelations follow on from reports two weeks ago that one in three people offered a place on the State's back-to-work scheme failed to show up for interview and one-third of those who repeatedly failed to show up were hit with benefit penalties. By the end of 2012, 1,807 people had had their welfare benefits cut.
At its most extreme, jobseekers have seen their €188 weekly payment reduced by 25 per cent – or €44 – for failing to engage with officials.