NESC publishes Report 137: Jobless Households: An Exploration of the Issues

NESC publishes Report 137: Jobless Households: An Exploration of the Issues

19 June 2014

Media Release

Ireland’s High Level of Jobless Households


NESC publishes a report ‘Jobless Households: An Exploration of the Issues’ examining why Ireland has a high level of jobless households


Ireland has a high level of households where no-one is working or has very limited access to work. Nearly one quarter of households in Ireland can be described as jobless compared to a European average of 11 per cent. A distinguishing feature of Ireland’s jobless households is the likelihood that they contain children, with children making up nearly a third of those in jobless households. These households have a high risk of poverty, with the danger of transmitting joblessness and poverty across generations.


Jobless households comprise a mix of circumstances: people who are unemployed, who are working in the home, who are ill or disabled, and students. The risk of being in a jobless household is related to the employability of those in the household and the household’s structure. Those who live in jobless households are more likely to have no educational qualifications, to have never worked or to be in the unskilled social class. They are also more likely to be renting their accommodation, to be single or parenting alone, and to either have a disability or to live with someone with a disability.


‘The reasons for household joblessness are complex but are related to three main factors’, said Helen Johnston, Senior Social Policy Analyst at NESC. ‘ The first factor is the interaction between the tax and social welfare system and the transition from welfare to work. The second factor is related to the availability of jobs and whether the skills of those in jobless households match the requirements of the job. The third, and often overlooked, factor is the specific characteristics of the jobless household, such as the age, level of education and skills, and the health of the adults in the household, as well as the age and number of children.’


Given this diversity in household joblessness, the report suggests that the issue will not be resolved through a single solution, but through packages of support that reflect the complexity of the situation of jobless households and their needs. This means that the emphasis on participation and activation must extend beyond those on the live register and those classified as long-term unemployed. Responses must also include tailored services that respond to people’s circumstances. Such services include: adult literacy, child development, family supports, addiction services, disability services, housing, education and training, public employment, community employment, and so on, as well as engagement with employers.

Note to Editors:


The National Economic and Social Council (NESC) was established in 1973. Its function is to analyse and report to the Taoiseach on strategic issues relating to the efficient development of the economy, the achievement of social justice and the development of a strategic framework for the conduct of relations and the negotiation of agreements between the government and the social partners. The Council is chaired by the Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach. It comprises representatives of trade unions, employer bodies, farm organisations, community and voluntary organisations, environmental organisations, key Government departments and has eight independent experts.


To download the Executive Summary or the full report, and associated infographic click here.

For further information contact

Helen Johnston

Tel. 087-4191780 / 01-8146333