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NESC publishes Council Report no 149: Addressing Employment Vulnerability as Part of a Just Transition in Ireland

Ireland’s Just Transition and Covid-19

How do you manage a transition to a fundamentally new economic future? This question had been the focus of work at the National Economic and Social Council in the months and weeks before Covid-19.

The Council’s work a key deliverable in the Government’s Climate Action Plan and Future Jobs Ireland 2019, focused on how to manage the transition associated with climate change and digital automation.  These challenges will endure beyond the current crisis and the Council have identified recommendations which will help Ireland address these and embrace the significant the opportunities.  These are contained in a report, Addressing Employment Vulnerability as Part of a Just Transition in Ireland, which the Council has published today at

It might be thought that this type of analysis loses its relevance in the current crisis.  The public health crisis is transforming our society, economy and environment in ways that cannot yet be fully understood.  Government is rapidly forging new ways of delivering and supporting critical social and economic services and is radically extending and enhancing financial supports for workers, families and businesses.  However, studying transition, as the Council has done, can be relevant to the crisis, its aftermath and our recovery.

First, the Council’s work shows the critical importance of approaching any major transition in an economy as a ‘just transition’- that is committing to the principle that nobody is left behind.  The Irish response to Covid-19 has moved just transition centre-stage.  Work is focused on protecting the most vulnerable, in a way that is inclusive and participative. This is an important principle and applying it and understanding how it works in practice can help ensure support across society for the actions that are and will be required.

Second, major transformation means major uncertainty and this demands an enormous commitment to data collection and evidence from multiple sources.  The work underway, even within the time constraints imposed by the rapid spread of the virus, has and is relying on fine-grained evidence.  It is continually improving data to pinpoint, predict and respond to vulnerability and increasingly making use of digital technologies to do so.  This applies to public health but also wider issues reflecting the changing circumstances of workers, businesses, families and individuals.

Third, the process has been participatory in the sense that it relies upon reaching out to experts, key groups and stakeholders, including employers and trade unions, to get ever more precise data, evidence and opinions on the impacts of the virus.  This is precisely what international work on how to govern in the face of uncertainty suggests is needed.

Fourth, the report provides a vision: Ireland as a resilient, sustainable, thriving net zero carbon economy, environment and society, using innovation and collective preparedness to shape the future we want to achieve. This vision emphasises a high-quality jobs economy, targeted funding and proactively engaging early and deeply with employees about their skills.  The vision also focuses on making businesses more resilient by supporting companies and other organisaiton which are vulnerable but viable, a perspective magnified by the pandemic.  This vision can and should help frame our recovery from Covid-19.


Note to Editors

In 2019, Government made a very specific request to NESC as part of the Climate Action Plan and Future Jobs Ireland, to identify steps that could be taken to address the vulnerability arising for workers, firms, and sectors in relation to the transition to low carbon and more digital and automated future. The Climate Action Plan also asked NESC to establish a Just Transition Review Group under its working group structures to advise the Climate Action Delivery Board. The question of how to protect vulnerable workers, enterprises and communities during these transitions requires immediate answers, particularly in regions which are heavily dependent on activities linked to fossil fuels.

Addressing Employment Vulnerability as Part of a Just Transition in Ireland is based on in-depth analysis, international case studies, and a programme of consultations undertaken in 2019.

For further information, please contact:

Dr. Cathal FitzGerald

The National Economic and Social Council

16 Parnell Square

Dublin D01 E7C1




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