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Half the country's working population receiving emergency social welfare


(Stock image)

(Stock image)

(Stock image)

More than a million people - almost half the country's pre-crisis working population - are now in receipt of emergency social welfare unemployment supports that will cost the State billions of euro.

Those most likely to have lost their jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic are young, low-skilled, female, and were previously in part-time employment.

Figures published this morning by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection in conjunction with the Central Bank reveal the stark damage the pandemic has wreaked.

The working paper confirms that tourism, hospitality and food services, retail and construction have been the hardest-hit sectors.

The more than 1.1 million people now relying on the State includes those on the Live Register, people in receipt of the new Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment, and employers using the temporary wage subsidy scheme.

More than 160,000 people in the accommodation and food sector are in receipt of the new supports, while nearly the same number in the wholesale and retail trade are on them.

Those households where people held jobs in sectors where the fall in employment has been 25pc or more, typically have little savings to protect themselves from economic shocks or hardship, the working paper prepared for the Labour Market Advisory Council notes.

Ireland's unemployment rate was just 4.8pc in January, with the country close to full employment at the time.

Last month, the unemployment rate soared to 16.5pc, according to the Central Statistics Office.

Many businesses are now wondering if they will ever reopen, leaving hundreds of thousands of people facing an uncertain future.

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The pandemic unemployment payment was introduced by the Government on March 13, the day after it closed all schools, colleges and crèches.

"These income supports were rolled out in a very short period of time and have proven to be effective in insulating people from the worst effects of a severe income and employment shock," said Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty.

"Now, as the numbers receiving payments begins to plateau, we need to start looking at how we get people back to work and concentrate on post-pandemic planning."

She said the findings of the paper will help inform the Government for the "post-pandemic recovery".

Visit our Covid-19 vaccine dashboard for updates on the roll out of the vaccination program and the rate of Coronavirus cases Ireland

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