Monday, July 21, 2014

21/7/2014: Why a Wave of Low-Pay Public Sector Jobs Applications?

Employment stats and claims have puzzled many in recent months. Government claimed variable numbers at different points in time, ranging between jobs created at 61,000 to 67,000 and so on. Much analysis has been provided of these claims and other numbers on this blog and many other, often divergent, often close-enough and so forth. All, however, points to the fact that jobs are being added in the economy and that at least some of the declines in unemployment rate are down to new positions being posted and filled.

Which raises a hugely surprising question: if private sectors jobs are being created, why is there such a huge surplus of unemployed applying for jobs in the private sector? Evidence of the latter is not systematic and not regular, but here is one snapshot:

Note that the public sector jobs being rushed-at are not at the top or even the middle of pay & perks distribution. These are roughly EUR11/hour jobs, at the bottom of the career ladder and the recruits face the prospect of:

  1. Higher taxes,
  2. Lower non-wage benefits, 
  3. Increased workloads (compared to the incumbents and past employees), and
  4. Prospect of slower career progressions (early retirements took out a large share of senior employees and their positions are being filled internally, without any prospect of younger recruits qualifying for them).
One answer is that for all the changes in employment stats we had over the recent months, we still have huge levels of unemployment and underemployment as the legacy of the crisis. On underemployment side, take the percentages of workers in working less than full-time hours as a share of total employment pool. In Q1 2008, 7.5% of all workers in employment worked less than 20 hours/week, in Q1 2014 the percentage was 8.1%. Over the same period of time, % of workers working 20-29 hours per week rose from 10.9% to 12.8%, percentage working 30-34 hours per week rose from 4.3% to 4.5%. Percentage of workers working more than 35 hours per week dropped from 66.4% to 61.9%. Counting in those working less than full-time hours and those on variable hours, 38.1% of our employment pool are not in full-time employment against 33.6% back in Q1 2008. 

In Q1 2008, there were 113,600 individuals who considered themselves underemployed, in Q1 2014 the number was 258,100. And there are 46,500 more people who are working part-time and consider themselves underemployed today compared to Q3 2008 (earliest we have data for), while numbers of working-age adults not in the labour-force are still up 121,300 on Q1 2008.

And in the core age categories, applying for these jobs, the percentage of 15-24 year old unemployed relative to total population of that age group was 9.58% in Q1 2008. This stood at 25.31% in Q1 2014.

In other words, it is easy to forget that things are still very ugly when it comes to employment situation in Ireland.

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