Workers in poorer areas more likely to be jobless during coronavirus pandemic

ESRI report compiled in collaboration with State agency Pobal in the context of those who reside in more affluent locales

People living in disadvantaged areas were more likely to become unemployed during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new report by the ESRI in collaboration with Pobal.

It found that compared to those who lived in more affluent locations, people living in deprived areas experienced greater disruption to their employment and that these areas had higher rates of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) benefit during lockdowns.

However, the report also found that PUP rates declined more rapidly in the disadvantaged areas when restrictions eased, potentially because individuals in these areas may have had less discretion in returning to work once restrictions were lifted. The research acknowledged that large numbers of people who live in deprived areas may have been working in sectors such as retail, accommodation and food, which were closed for long periods at a time during lockdowns. They would also not have had the choice to work from home in these sectors.

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The report, entitled Pandemic Unemployment and Social Disadvantage in Ireland, examined the economic effects of the pandemic on those who live in less affluent areas, as defined by the Pobal Haase Pratschke Deprivation Index. Pobal works on behalf of the Government to support local communities and agencies on social inclusion and development.


The results of the report align with previous research indicating that people living in deprived areas are more likely to work in low-paid jobs that were vulnerable to pandemic-related restrictions, and offered limited opportunities for remote working.

The study solely focused on PUP recipients and did not include other forms of unemployment benefit.

The PUP was a social welfare payment for employees and self-employed people who lost all their employment due to lockdowns during the pandemic and was designed as an income replacement to mitigate the short-term impact on financial wellbeing that the pandemic caused.

Employment disruption

At the launch of the report, Pobal chief executive Anna Shakespeare said the research confirms the negative economic and financial impacts the Covid-19 pandemic had on people living in more deprived areas.

“It is also an important evidence base for future reviews and evaluations on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in Ireland,” said Ms Shakespeare.

“The findings demonstrate that low-income workers, marginalised communities and people living in disadvantaged communities throughout Ireland experienced considerable employment disruption during this period. This research provides a deeper understanding of the effects of the pandemic on disadvantaged communities and the importance of social income measures during this period to provide additional supports to individuals and families,” she said.

Ms Shakespeare also emphasised the “critical role” played by the community and voluntary sector during the pandemic in supporting people and communities in the context of the research.

Report author Adele Whelan of the ESRI said the findings “highlight economic inequalities in the impact of the pandemic, particularly in relation to area-level deprivation. The higher PUP rates in more deprived areas give emphasis to the vulnerability of individuals in these areas to labour market disruptions resulting from public health restrictions. This is an important consideration for policymakers if future events necessitate lockdown policies.”

Ellen O’Donoghue

Ellen O’Donoghue

Ellen O'Donoghue is an Irish Times journalist