Ireland now has the worst household unemployment statistics in Europe according to a new report.
The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has confirmed that the proportion of households without a working adult in Ireland is the highest out of 31 European countries.
One in five Irish households includes an unemployed adult, more than double the Euro zone average.
The ESRI found that in 2010, 22 per cent of households in Ireland were jobless compared to the Euro zone average of just over 10 per cent.
A jobless household is defined as one in which its adult(s) spend less than one-fifth of their available time in employment.
The Irish Times reports that in 2007, before the Celtic Tiger collapsed, Ireland also had the highest proportion of jobless households in the zone.
Spain and Greece have greater unemployment rates but the percentage of households without a working adult stood at 10 per cent and 7.5 per cent respectively in 2010.
The ESRI report remarks that Ireland had an unusually high percentage of jobless households even when the economy and employment levels were growing strongly.
The report states: “Even during the boom years of the early 2000s, the rate of joblessness at household level was very high by European standards.”
The figures show Ireland with the highest rate of jobless households in the zone in 2007, according to the Eurostat data the report uses. Only Bulgaria had a higher rate of the 27 EU member states in 2007/
The report says that between 2004 and 2007 when Ireland enjoyed very low unemployment and rapid jobs growth, the share of the State’s households defined as jobless recorded a double-digit increase to reach 15 per cent of the total when the average across the euro zone in 2007 was just below 10 per cent.
The report added: “Welfare reforms to encourage work were introduced in a number of European countries, such as the United Kingdom, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands in the 1990s and Germany in the 2000s.
“Such reforms were not given the same emphasis in Ireland. The Irish welfare system is defined by its complexity, with a diverse range of different benefits available to working-age adults.
“While the payment rates are quite similar, each scheme has its own set of rules regarding the assessment of means, tapering arrangements and earnings disregards.
“In 2004, 70 per cent of those in jobless households were at-risk-of-poverty. This had fallen to 34 per cent by 2010. This change over time appears to be entirely due to an increase in the generosity of social welfare payments relative to the poverty income threshold.”
The report also notes that one in 25 people in Ireland was classified as ‘working poor’ in 2010, unchanged on 2007 and 2004. The definition of poor in this context includes those whose household incomes are lower that 60 per cent of the median.
The report concludes: “The working poor are not a particularly disadvantaged group because many are self employed or have a third-level qualification. The largest share of the working poor, at 44 per cent of the total, was self-employed.”
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