European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) Ireland Submission to Action Plan for Jobs 2018

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1 European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) Ireland Submission to Action Plan for Jobs 2018 The European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) Ireland welcomes the opportunity to make a submission to the Action Plan for Jobs There has been great progress in the past number of years with over two million people now in employment and unemployment at 6.3% 1. This means that more people who want a job now have one. More recently the increase in employment is also in full-time jobs with a decrease in those parttime underemployed. This is very positive. However, there are a number of issues that need to be addressed as part of the Action Plan for Jobs if the increase in employment is to be inclusive and result in a decent standard of living for those accessing employment. The Action Plan for Jobs is a cross Governmental strategy and therefore depends on actions across a range of Departments for it to achieve its goals. Similarly the Action Plan for Jobs must complement a number of other national strategies and contribute to their targets. This includes the National Action Plan for Social Inclusion, which has the overall goal to reduce consistent poverty to 4 per cent by 2016 (interim target) and to 2 per cent or less by 2020, from the 2010 baseline rate of 6.2 per cent. The following are some of the key areas that need to be addressed if the Action Plan for Jobs is to support the achievement of the poverty reduction target. 1. Impact assessment Poverty impact assessment has been part of Government policy for 20 years. It has the capacity to ensure that all policy supports the reduction of poverty. EAPN Ireland had been actively trying to ensure it is implemented effectively over this period. However its implementation has been sporadic and lacking transparency. Therefore the commitment in the Programme for Partnership Government to develop the process of budget and policy proofing as a means of advancing equality, reducing poverty and strengthening economic and social rights is very welcome. As highlighted above the Action Plan for Jobs is a key Government strategy which can contribute to the achievement of the national poverty target. Proposal The Action Plan for Jobs should be subject to poverty and equality impact assessment to ensure it is as effective as possible in reducing poverty and inequality and improving economic and social rights

2 2. Quality jobs and decent pay To date the Action Plan for Jobs has focused on job creation with limited focus on the quality of these jobs. In fact the issue of quality jobs is not mentioned in the Action Plan. This is a major weakness and has contributed to the fact that many of the current jobs do not help to improve the lives of workers and their families. The number of those in work who are experiencing material deprivation fell from in 2015 but is still a reality for one in six of those at work. Consistent poverty for those in work is also falling but it is now at 2.1%. In 2008 it was 1.1%. The issue of precarious work has been well documented, including in the University of Limerick 2015 report 2. It is a particular issue for women and migrant workers. The UL report highlighted particular issues, including the proliferation of if and when contracts across a range of sectors. A previous report in 2012 by the Mandate Trade Union also highlighted issues among its members 3. Issues related to decent work were also addressed in their wider context in the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation 2015 Report on Low Pay, Decent Work, and a Living Wage 4. The issues raised by these reports need to be addressed through specific measures linked to the Action Plan for Jobs. We welcome the proposals announced in May for legislation to address some of the issues raised in the 2015 UL report. These must be progressed to legislation and implementation stage as soon as possible. Apart from contractual issued lined to precarious work the issue of adequate pay is also central to ensuring that the jobs that are being created are quality jobs. The Survey of Income and Living Conditions in 2015 showed that median incomes were growing in Ireland. However, the fact remains the Ireland is a low pay economy and has the third lowest wage levels in the OECD with 24% of workers on low pay. This compares to less than 10% in Finland and Denmark 5. Ensuring the adequacy of the national minimum wage and agreeing wage levels under Joint Labour Committee agreements are essential baselines in terms of decent work. Work to address both of these must continue. The overall goal must be to provide workers with a living wage. In 2016 the living wage for a single worker working full-time was calculated at per hour 6. The hourly living wage level very much depends on the cost of living and in particular the cost of accessing services. This is particularly impacted on by the cost of housing and also the additional cost of childcare for those with children. Any policy measures which result in reducing the cost of services will lower the living wage levels. While it is important that workers have an adequate hourly rate of pay it is critical that they can provide themselves, and their families if they have them, with a secure, regular and adequate weekly income. This involves addressing the issue of decent work in a holistic manner. 2 University of Limerick A Study on the Prevalence of Zero Hours Contracts. 3 Mandate Trade Union Decent Work: The impact of the recession on low paid workers. 4 Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Report on Low Pay, Decent Work, and a Living Wage 5 OECD The Living Wage Technical Group calculated that a single full time worker in 2017 would require a living wage of per week to have a decent standard of living. 2

3 The issue of decent work must be at the heart of all Government policy and is particularly critical in the roll out of the Action Plan on Jobs and the Pathways to Work strategy. It must be applied as a criteria for access to employer incentives such as JobsPlus. There may also be also scope to actively promote decent work and best-practice employment standards as part of public procurement. Proposals Measures to address decent work must be outlined in the Action Plan for Jobs. This includes the existing proposals to address issues of if and when contracts identified in the UL report as well as others which have been highlighted. The National Minimum Wage needs to be incrementally increased towards Living Wage level agreed by the Living Wage Technical Group. A target needs to be put in the Action Plan for Jobs related to decent work e.g. in relation to in-work poverty. 3. In Work Supports The primary source of an adequate wage should be the employer. However, in the absence of adequate take home pay many low paid workers depend on social welfare supports to supplement their income. In 2015 social transfers reduced consistent poverty for those in work from 6.9% to 2.1%. It is therefore essential that these welfare supports are accessible and adequate to bridge the gap for workers and their families. Currently those working three days or less per working week can qualify for Jobseekers Benefit or Jobseekers Allowance if they are actively seeking work and meet the conditions for these supports. The Family Income Supplement also plays an important role in supplementing the wages of low paid workers; while the Back to Work Family Dividend supports welfare recipients with children to make the welfare-to-work journey. However, because of the design of these supports a large number of very low paid workers do not receive them. Some key issues are as follows: a. Part time workers can only qualify for jobseekers payments (Jobseekers Benefit and Jobseekers Allowance) if their hours are worked within three days or less a week. Many low paid part-time workers, even if working only a small number of hours have their hours spread over more than three days. This creates hardship and poverty traps. b. The Family Income Supplement (FIS) plays an important role in supplementing the income of low paid workers with families, protecting them from the worst impact of low income from work. However, those who qualify for FIS do not get it automatically so it has to be applied for. This means that many people who are eligible do not get it. A similar issue applies to the Back to Work Family Dividend (BTWFD). The application process for FIS and BTWFD also involve the employer, which can act as a barrier to application even for those who are aware of it. Additionally, a worker has to be working a minimum of 19 hours to qualify for FIS. The Government has also carried out a consultation on a proposed new Working Family Payment. The consultation documents states that the two principles i. making work pay and ii. tackling child poverty will underpin the proposed payment. EAPN Ireland Policy Group made a submission to this 3

4 consultation 7. Consistent with the two stated principles on making work pay and tacking poverty, we make the following proposals. The Working Family Payment should:- improve the choices and the quality of life of those excluded from the labour market. undergo a poverty, equality and gender impact assessment which would include an assessment of the impact on different groups who might access it. It should also look at the impact on existing recipients of in-work welfare payments. be part of a wider range of policies which deliver an integrated active inclusion approach to ensure access to adequate income, quality services and an inclusive labour market as outlined in the EU Recommendation for the active Inclusion of people excluded from the labour market 8. not make people worse off than the under the current system of supports. learn from the limits in access to existing in-work supports and ensure that the design and conditions for accessing the payment does not result in many who need it not being able to access it. The roll-out of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), including the transition of those on Rent Supplement, is also an important element in supporting the transition from welfare to work and must continue at pace. Proposals Change the criteria for access to Jobseekers payments from one based on days to one based on hours. Maintain the adequacy of the Family Income Supplement (FIS) and reform FIS and the Back to Work Family Dividend (BTWFD) so that those who qualify for them automatically receive them. The proposed new Working Family Payment should only be introduced after a thorough poverty, equality and gender impact assessment and not result in people being worse off than under existing in-work income supports. 4. Equality in access to the Labour Market It is essential that the Action Plan for Jobs includes measures that support access to employment for those groups and communities distant from the labour market. This includes lone parents, people with disabilities, Travellers, people from lower socio-economic communities, migrants and in particularly those who have come through the asylum and refugee process and older people. In mid-2016 the employment rate for people parenting alone years old was 56.4% compared to 74.4% for all adults in couples with children and 64.7% for the full population 9. In 2016 only 36% of people with a disability age were working compared to 68.5% of the overall population 10. In 2011 just 11% of Travellers were in employment compared to a 66% rate for non-travellers European Commission Recommendation for the Active inclusion of people excluded from the labour market. 9 CSO QNHS Households and Family Units Quarter Quarter CSO, Census ESRI A Social Portrait of Travellers in Ireland. 4

5 Measures to improve access to the labour market for these groups must involve an integrated active inclusion approach and address issues related to adequacy of income, access to the range of quality services and ensure that people end up in decent jobs. i. Discrimination Discrimination impacts on many groups in accessing the labour market. Legislation exists to address discrimination in access to employment, but still it is a reality for many. It is essential that those who are discriminated against can have adequate access to suitable complaints procedures to have these investigated and that enforcement bodies are adequately resourced to carry out their functions. Antidiscrimination and equality legislation currently covers nine grounds. This needs to be expanded to cover socio-economic status as many people are discriminated against because of their address and socio-economic background. ii. People who are unemployed The implementation of the Pathways to Work strategy is critical to the delivery of the Action Plan for Jobs. The expansion of Pathways to Work to other people who want to play a more active role in the labour market, apart from those who are classified as unemployed, is an important step forward in providing supports to these people and ensuring more equality in the labour market. However, it is critical that all the public employment service and the other services working to implement Pathways to Work provide these services within a supportive culture that is client centred and empowers people to make positive choices for their futures. It is also essential that those providing the services receive appropriate training, qualifications and resources to provide a personalised and responsive approach to meet the needs of their clients. These issues are outlined in an EAPN Ireland Position Paper on Positive Activation 12. iii. People with disabilities Effective implementation of the Comprehensive Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities must include effective measures for making work pay for people with disabilities, to guarantee consistency of income, and assurance of secondary benefits including medical cards and transport costs, that address the extra costs associated with having a disability. Anomalies in schemes such as the Partial Capacity Benefit must also be addressed and the availability of the Wage Subsidy Scheme and Job Retention Grant must be communicated more effectively to ensure better take up of supports. Assurances must also be given that no one on a Disability related payment will be activated involuntarily or inappropriately. People with disabilities do incur extra costs and these require special measures to guarantee a minimum income. The recommendations from the report to Make Work Pay for People with Disabilities are therefore most welcome and need to be implemented i. 12 EAPN Ireland Position Paper on Positive Activation. 5

6 iv. Lone-parents Those lone parents on the Jobseeker Transitional (JST) payment should be seen as a distinct group with a specific set of needs. The time spent on JST is a unique opportunity to invest in a package of supports and services which ensure that parents have the best chance of transition into the labour market. The Department of Social Protection can offer JST recipients flexibilities in acknowledgment of these needs and/or widen access to JST for other lone parents who are currently excluded. Access to the Family Income Supplement is a major factor in ensuring that parents are able to afford an adequate income while in work. However, only those working 19 hours or more can qualify for FIS. Currently, in recognition of the cost of childcare, those lone parents in work whose youngest child is under seven years can retain the One Parent Family Payment (OPFP) while also able to get the Family Income Supplement if they work at least 19 hours. This is to ensure the family can have a decent income. However, those lone parents whose youngest child is between 7 and 14 years cannot retain the JST if they are in work. This poses challenges for many lone parents, many of whom still incur childcare and after school care costs. The income disregard for lone parents plays an important role in supporting lone parents to access an adequate income. The cuts to the income disregard had a very negative impact on the employment of lone-parents so its partial reinstatement has been welcome. Full reinstatement is necessary. The full delivery of the new Affordable Childcare Scheme would also be an important measure to support lone-parents to access employment. v. Asylum seekers and undocumented migrants Among the serious issues facing asylum seekers in the current Direct Provision System is the denial of the right to work. Ireland and Lithuania are the only EU Member States which prohibit asylum seekers from working at any stage. Many bodies, including UN bodies have highlighted this issue and the Supreme Court has now agreed that the absolute ban on asylum seekers from working is in principle unconstitutional. Irregular migration is a complex yet common outcome of modern international migration. Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) estimates that there are between 20,000 and 26,000 undocumented migrant adults living and working in Ireland. The improved economy and the significant length of time most undocumented migrants have lived here means this is an opportune moment to correct past mistakes by implementing a regularisation scheme to allow undocumented migrants in Ireland an opportunity to come forward and regularise their status 13 ii. Proposals Those providing services under Pathways to Work strategy must provide these services within a supportive culture that is client centred and empowers people to make positive choices for their futures. Implement the proposals in the report to Make Work Pay for People with Disabilities. Lone parents who are in employment and whose children are aged between 7 and 14 should receive both the Jobseekers Transitional payment and the Family Income Supplement if they meet the qualifying criteria. 13 MRCI Policy Paper 2014; Ireland is Home ; MRCI Infographic undocumented-migrants/ 6

7 Fully reinstate the Income Disregard for lone-parents of Grant the right to work to asylum seekers in Direct Provision for 6 months or more. Assess the budgetary implications of the introduction of a regularisation scheme for undocumented migrants in the State, taking into consideration that a lack of legal status is a key factor pushing families into poverty. 5. Access to education and training Access to education and training and the opportunity to upskill and re-skill are essential elements of the transition to quality jobs for many people, but particularly for those who have low skills or educational background. This involves a joined up approach to the delivery of the National Skills Strategy 2025, Pathways to Work and the Action Plan for Jobs and an investment in essential education and training. The OECD Adult Skills Survey shows that one in six Irish adults (521,550 people) find reading and understanding everyday texts difficult: for example, reading a bus timetable or medicine instructions 14. One in four (754,000 people) has difficulties in real world maths, from basic addition and subtraction to calculating averages. The survey also showed that people who scored at the lowest literacy and numeracy levels often have no or low qualifications, earn less income, were unemployed and had poorer health. Currently there are 481,100 adults (24 64 years) who have less than a Leaving Certificate or equivalent qualification (level 4), many who are in the workplace. The National Skills Strategy 2025 has set a target to upskill 165,000 people from Level 1 or below in literacy from currently 17.5% to 12% by The Government provide funding for the Skills for work programme through the Workplace Basic Education Fund (WBEF) and this caters for approximately 3,000 employees per year. However even with this and the main service, it is proving a challenge to upskill people at these levels. While we welcome the new EU Upskilling Pathways initiative which will offer adults with low skills a skills assessment, learning offer and validation and recognition. But in general the educational architecture currently in place in Ireland is insufficient to meet targets in the National Skills Strategy and to cater for the number of adults who need second chance education. Proposals Every adult with literacy, numeracy and basic ICT needs and less than a Leaving Certificate (QQI Level 4) should be guaranteed a learning programme with a local education and training provider. Those in employment with less than a level 4 qualification should have access to paid time off work to develop their basic literacy and numeracy skills if they wish to do so. This intervention would be for a maximum time specific period and funded through our social insurance (PRSI) system. 14 Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) 2012 Survey Results for Ireland: CSO, Dublin Adult-Competencies-PIAAC-2012-Survey-Results-for-Ireland.pdf

8 6. Role of Community Sector Local and national community sector organisations play an important role in supporting the social and economic participation of people from the most marginalised groups and communities. At local level they are based within and have a deep knowledge of the issues facing the communities. In many cases these organisations support the provision of essential community services including supports for people to access the labour market. They also support provide a crucial link between the communities and state services, helping to improve access to these services and the policies that inform them. However, during the recession, many autonomous community organisations were closed down or experienced major reduction in their capacity due to programme changes or funding cuts 16 This has resulted in the ability of community organisation to fulfil their roles in supporting the social and economic participation of communities. The reinstatement of adequate resources for autonomous local community organisations would greatly support the effectiveness of the Action Plan for Jobs go reach more marginalised communities and groups. EAPN Ireland Policy Group Established in 1990, the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) Ireland is a network of groups and individuals working against poverty. It is the Irish national network of the European Anti- Poverty Network (EAPN Europe), which has two decades of experience in lobbying for progressive social change at European level. EAPN Ireland supports a network of over two hundred local, regional and national organisations and individuals committed to tackling poverty through a range of actions including community development, policy analysis and lobbying, campaigning and participation. EAPN Ireland aims to build the capacity of its membership to engage with national and European policy making through training, information dissemination, collective action and networking. EAPN Ireland has a Policy Group of its members. This group brings together interested EAPN Ireland members to coordinate our efforts in the fight against poverty and to connect this to EU policy development and their implementation in Ireland, including the Europe 2020 strategy. It is made up of representatives of the following organisations: Age Action Ireland Congress Centres Network Disability Federation of Ireland EAPN Ireland Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed Irish Traveller Movement Migrant Rights Centre Ireland National Adult Literacy Agency National Youth Council of Ireland National Women s Council of Ireland One Family Simon Communities of Ireland SIPTU. For information, please contact Paul Ginnell, EAPN Ireland: 100 North King Street, Smithfield, Dublin 7. Tel: B. Harvey, Irish Congress of Trade Unions Community Sector Committee Downsizing the Community Sector. 8

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