Fianna Fáil says that, in spite of the Government’s claim of a “jobs bonanza”, more and more people are having to seek a living in low-paid employment.
The party’s jobs spokesman, Niall Collins, bases the claim on the fact that the same number of people receive Family Income Supplement (FIS) this year as last year “despite over three years of official unemployment rate drops”.
FIS is an in-work support that provides an income top-up for employees on low earnings with children. It is designed to prevent in-work poverty for low-paid workers with child dependents and to offer a financial incentive to take up employment.
According to the Department of Social Protection, there are almost 57,000 families with more than 126,000 children in receipt of FIS. The estimated spend on the supplement this year is approximately €422m.
Mr Collins acknowledged that more people were now in some form of work than in previous years: “However, what’s also clear is... that the number of people in receipt of FIS has increased consistently from 2011 onwards and has, despite reductions in unemployment, broadly stayed the same in 2017 compared to 2016.
“[Jobs] Minister [Mary] Mitchell O’Connor can claim that she is leading a jobs bonanza for the Irish economy all she likes, but the fact is more and more people are working in low-income jobs that require the State to top up their family incomes through the FIS scheme.”
Mr Collins said the jobs minister needs to understand that not all jobs are equal, and that simply being in employment does not mean that people and families will have a decent quality of life.
“Is this the type of economy that Minister Mitchell O’Connor and Fine Gael are happy to preside over; people working full time jobs but still relying on support from the State to keep a roof over their heads or put food on their tables?” he said.
Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar acknowledges “steady growth” in the number of families supported by FIS over recent years, with numbers in receipt of FIS rising from around 32,000 families with more than 73,000 children in 2012 to almost 57,000 families and more than 125,000 children by the end of 2016.
However, he claims that a number of factors have led to the increase, including a substantial rise in the numbers of people in employment, as well as increases in the FIS thresholds in 2016, which made more people eligible.
“For example, the number of people in employment has increased over the past four years from 1.86m people in 2013 to more than 2m now,” he said. “With more jobs, there are more people eligible for FIS.”
He said another reason for the increase is the transition of people from the one-parent family payment to FIS.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved