Saturday, August 30, 2014

30/8/2014: Irish Unemployment: The Plight of Long-Term Unemployed Older Workers

Some blogposts based on the latest QNHS data for Q2 2014 are due next, so to start with:

Duration of Unemployment in Ireland:

Two tables below summarise y/y and current on Q1 2011 (tenure of the present Coalition Government) changes in unemployment by age groups and duration of unemployment.

Couple of things worth mentioning (keep in mind, analysis of other aspects of unemployment are to follow, so we are focusing here on duration of unemployment):

  1. Overall unemployment declined. This is good news, albeit not very new nor very interesting.
  2. Y/y there were more significant declines in long-term unemployment for all those in the labour force (year on year, down 16.3% for those unemployed 1 year and over as opposed to a decline of 15.4% for those in unemployment in general). 
  3. There were comparable declines in unemployment compared to Q1 2011 for those in long-term unemployment (down 17.2%) as for all unemployed (down 17.3%).
  4. Caveat to (2) and (3) above: while these are good numbers, longer term unemployment declines are more heavily influenced by drop outs from the workforce than other durations.
  5. In year-on-year terms, 15-24 years old have performed significantly better than average in terms of declines in unemployment of any duration and somewhat better than average in terms of declines in long-term unemployment. This suggests that some component of the current younger long-term unemployed is still structural - and cannot be easily removed by switching them into either education, training or into new jobs. Younger long-term unemployed also performed better than average for their reference group in terms of current levels compared to Q1 2011. This suggests that there have been some successes in shifting younger people off unemployment and longer-term unemployment too. Which is good news.
  6. In year-on-year terms, mid-age group of long-term unemployed outperformed the average in terms of declines in unemployment (-20.9% against -16.3% average). But overall declines in unemployment in this group are basically around average (-15.8% against -15.4% for the overall group). Things are better for this category of workers both in short and long-term unemployment when compared to Q1 2011. Again, this is good news.
  7. Bad news are for the category of workers 45 years of age and over. Why? In year-on-year terms, their unemployment rates declined less than across all age categories (-11.8% for all 45+ years of age against -15.4% for all workers) and in comparison to Q1 2011, their unemployment levels are higher (+2.7% for all 45+ years of age against -17.3% for all workers). Even worse news are for the long-term unemployed workers of age 45 and over: their unemployment rates declined much less than across all age categories (-8.1% for all 45+ years of age against -16.3% for all workers) and in comparison to Q1 2011, their unemployment levels are significantly higher (+14.4% for all 45+ years of age against -17.2% for all workers). This is the bad news: older workers are becoming increasingly less and less employable and the jobs being created in the economy, as well as training and activation schemes made available by the state are not working for this group.
Thus, overall, share of longer-term unemployed is declining, but remains still very high, while share of the long-term unemployed in the older age cohort of workers is rising:

The problem of long-term unemployment is bad enough - unemployment of duration in excess of 6-12 months has very long-term effect on employability of the workers, their skills, their psychological well-being, but also permanent effect on their wages and the probability of future jobs losses spells, and so on. The problem of long-term older workers is worse. Workers left without the job for a year or so, whilst in their older age are facing much greater barrier to re-entry into the workforce and suffer much more significant losses to their pensions, health status and social standing than their younger counterparts. They are also much harder to re-train and up-skill, so activation programmes generally designed to deal with the acute unemployment crises are not suitable for their needs. 

Stay tuned for more analysis of QNHS figures.
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