ESRI pulls research paper

A supposedly sensational piece of research published by the ESRI has been withdrawn after doubts were raised about the accuracy of its analysis.

The working paper had suggested the daily expense incurred by working people with children meant that 44% of them would be better off on social welfare.

However, the ESRI said it had taken the “unprecedented” step of withdrawing the document as it required major revision.

The paper, The Costs of Working in Ireland, was written by ex-ESRI professor Richard Tol. It had been available on the institute’s website for two weeks.

“The decision to withdraw the paper has been made as it has emerged that the underlying analysis requires major revision and that the paper’s estimates overstate the numbers of people who would be better off on the dole than in work,” the ESRI said.

“The institute has taken the unprecedented step of withdrawing the paper because of its concern that the public could be misled by its content. The institute understands that Prof Tol is planning to revise the working paper.”

The institute said its working papers were un-refereed pieces of analysis and remained the responsibility of the researchers.

The paper received a lot of publicity on radio and TV yesterday. It was reported that Prof Tol, now based at the University of Sussex, stood over the work and would publish it elsewhere. He was on holiday and unaware that the ESRI had withdrawn the paper.

The paper said having one child under the age of five led to additional costs and brought down the value of a salary by €9,000. It said this led to a situation where the welfare system encouraged a significant portion of people not to work.

“These substantial additional costs seriously hamper work incentives, as it is shown that there is a 25-fold increase [without young children] in the number of individuals who have a higher income when unemployed than when in employment with the inclusion of these additional costs of working,” the paper said.

Earlier, Sinn Féin had called on the ESRI to distance itself from the work as it “attacked” people on the social welfare system.

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