Young people worst hit by pandemic impact on employment, ESRI says

Study explores equality impact of pandemic on labour market, comparing situations pre- and post-pandemic

Young people experienced the biggest drops in employment and participation during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new study from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).

The study explores the equality impact of the Covid-19 on the labour market, comparing the situation pre- and post-pandemic.

Education was found to be a protective factor, with much higher rates of employment among those with higher education levels throughout the period.

While younger workers were initially worse hit during the pandemic, as it ebbed in 2022, their employment rate had risen more than other age groups.


While employment rates improved for some disabled people, employment rates among disabled people who identified as strongly limited in their activities fell further during the pandemic.

The rise in remote working was strongly patterned by occupation and sector, with the greatest increases in IT and financial services, and for workers in professional and clerical support occupations.

Remote working also coincided with an increase in women’s working hours by 1.1 per cent.

The findings show that employment rates rose for almost all groups analysed post-pandemic, while unemployment and labour market inactivity generally fell.

Given the impact of lockdowns and other restrictions, the labour market recovery has been “extraordinary, and shines a light on the buffering effect of the Government’s supports for businesses, employers and individuals, highlighting the protective and stabilising role of significant public investment,” the report said.

The study argues that the recovery was likely facilitated by large-scale State intervention during the pandemic in terms of employment and social welfare supports.

At their height, Covid-related employment schemes supported about a million individuals and 37,000 enterprises. Such schemes could be usefully activated in future labour market crises, if they were carefully designed and adequately resourced.

While employment recovered, the pattern of inequalities that existed before the pandemic are “the same after the pandemic”.

“There is also evidence that some groups have fallen further behind, for example people with lower education levels fared poorer than other groups, both in terms of labour market participation and the nature of work available to them, during the period,” the study said.

The available data also highlights that disabled people’s economic activation pre- and post-pandemic shows little change, underlining the need for targeted employment strategies for historically marginalised groups.

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter