Latest figures from the Central Statistics Office show the number of people out of work has fallen yet again, but issues still persist among lone parents and along the Border area.
The Quarterly National Household Survey for the three months to the end of June showed reductions in the proportion of persons living in jobless households across all age categories.
The proportion of people aged under 59 living in jobless households in the second quarter of this year was 12.3% — down almost one percentage point compared with the same period in 2015. The proportion of people aged under 17 living in a jobless household was higher than the national average, at 13.3%, although it fell over the course of a year.
However, not all parts of the country or sections of the population fare as well.
The figures show the Border region, at 14.1%, had the highest proportion of people up to the age of 59 in a jobless household.
While the overall employment rate for all people aged 15-64 was 64.7%, the comparable rate for lone parents was 56.4%. That compares with 73.0% for the adult members of couples without children and 74.4% for the adult members of couples with children.
The employment rate of lone parents dropped further for those whose youngest child was aged five or under, at 46%, rising to 57.2% where the youngest child was aged six to 11 and up to 63.4% where the youngest child was aged between 12 and 17.
The figures came as One Family, a support organisation for lone parents, called on Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar to implement recommendations made in a report published this week.
The report, entitled Lone Parents and Activation, What Works and Why: A Review of the International Evidence in the Irish Context, was conducted by Michelle Millar of the Unesco Child & Family Research Centre in NUI Galway and found: “Those parenting alone and their children are the biggest group at risk of living in poverty in Ireland.”
It also finds “Ireland’s free-market approach to childcare and the resulting high costs interfere with parental decision-making in the context of reconciling work and family life and afford limited choices for employment (particularly for women), in that costs are a real disincentive to women remaining in the labour force, principally in cases where there are two or more children”.
The NUIG report recommends a greater role for job preparation programmes and case workers, as well as financial supports such as in-work tax credits.
Karen Kiernan, CEO of One Family, welcomed targeted childcare supports as outlined by the Government but said more needed to be done. She said while employment rates for lone parents had increased for those with children up to the age of 12, they had actually fallen for those with children aged 12 to 17.
Meanwhile, in its Employment Monitor, Social Justice Ireland warned that the Border area and the West of the country are “falling behind” other regions when it comes to employment, with much of the rise in employment over the past 12 months accounted for by just four counties; Dublin, Meath, Kildare, and Wicklow.
“Such disparities are unsustainable and harmful to Ireland’s long-term economic prospects, and future government policy should make a concerted effort to ensure that as Ireland’s recovery develops, the benefits accrue to all corners of the country as much as is reasonably possible and that rural Ireland does not get left further behind,” it said.
According to the CSO, there were 2,318,600 adult members of family units in the second quarter of 2016 of whom 1,436,100 were classified as employed.
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