211. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the rate of jobless households here; the way in which this compares to the EU average; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 2244/18 asked on 17 Jan 2018)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): According to the EUROSTAT Labour Force Survey, in 2016 there were 170.76 million households in the EU (excluding households composed solely of students or solely of inactive people aged 65 and over). Of these, some 29.49 million households (17.3% of the total) were jobless - that is, no adult in the household was working.

For Ireland, the total number of relevant households was 1,440,600, and of these some 253,000 (17.6% of the total) were jobless.

Although the figure for Ireland has fallen from a high of 23% in 2012 as a result of the economic recovery, government remains concerned about aspects of household joblessness that go beyond the standard measures of unemployment and receipt of jobseeker’s payments. Relevant groups, not normally considered to be unemployed, include economically inactive lone parents, people with disabilities, and the adult dependants of unemployed people, all of whom might benefit from closer attachment to employment and the labour market. A range of policy reforms has been taken affecting these groups, and further reforms were considered in consultation with representative bodies for those involved. These policy developments are set out in the Pathways to Work Action Plan for Jobless Households which I published on 25, September 2017. Development of the Action Plan fulfils a commitment in the Programme for Government and in the overall Pathways to Work 2016-2020 strategy. It also responds to concerns about the level of household joblessness raised in Country-Specific Recommendations to Ireland by the EU.

The Action Plan for Jobless Households is an example of one of the many measures that Government is implementing, with a view to assisting people and families to become work ready and gain employment. The Plan aims to extend activation services to people who are not working, but are not defined as unemployed by traditional measures. It focuses in particular on improving employment rates of households with children – both the traditional ‘nuclear’ family and the lone parent family. A number of key policy initiatives to achieve that goal are identified as follows:

- Extend active engagement with the Intreo employment service to additional groups of economically inactive working age adults;

- Improve incentives and remove barriers for people transitioning from welfare to employment;

- Pilot a family focused case management approach in five geographical areas to improve employment rates and reduce joblessness in households across Ireland.

Progress against each of the reform actions and milestones will be monitored and reported on quarterly to the Cabinet Committee on the Economy and Jobs. Implementation of these policy measures should see the level of joblessness fall more rapidly than is already anticipated over the next few years. These targets are in addition to the existing Pathways to Work targets 2020 – bringing unemployment down to between 5% and 6%, bringing long-term unemployment below 2.5%, and bringing youth unemployment below 12%.

The Action Plan for Jobless Households aims to identify and remove barriers that are currently preventing people from getting a fair chance, thus building a Republic of Opportunity for all.