Number of people in Ireland working without formal contract 'unusually high'

The number of people in Ireland working without a contract is unusually high, according to new research from Maynooth University.

More than one in eight (12.8%) Irish workers are working without a formal contract. Although this percentage has been declining, it is still far higher in Ireland than in the other countries of Western Europe, except Spain and Portugal.

The report, entitled New Deals in the New Economy is a European Research Council funded study of employment conditions across Europe led by Professor Seán Ó Riain, Maynooth University Department of Sociology.

The analysis is based on the European Working Conditions Survey, which is based on a random sample of European workers.

The data also show that the various forms of precarious employment – fixed term contracts, agency working and working without a contract – are most common among young people, among service and production workers, and in very small firms.

Workers without a third level qualification are more likely to work in jobs with very little scope for learning new skills or making decisions at work – with over one in three working in such jobs. Workers in these jobs are likely also to have far fewer opportunities to work with computers and new technology.

Discussing the results, Professor Ó Riain observed: “These figures show that there is a real problem with jobs in the more vulnerable end of the labour market – workers who have the least skills have the least opportunities to improve their lot through learning at work, working with modern technology, getting experience making decisions, and building a secure employment history.

“It also influences the decisions made in the economy including the terms of bargaining and investment in training.

“Although welfare payments are doing important work in reducing the income inequalities in our job market, there is a need for a lot more to be done on issues such as training, childcare and other measures that will build up both workers and companies who are caught in this low learning trap at the moment”.

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