Wednesday, 13 October 2010

The plight of the involuntarily unemployed in Ireland

I remember some years back, when I played bass guitar in an awful pub covers band, I was told that a gig on the first Tuesday of each month was a coveted one, as the pubs would be full of people bursting with bonhomie and flush with Child Benefit cash (also known as the Mickey Money or the John Player Blue Allowance). Unfortunately, the band was too crap to get a gig on the first Tuesday of the month, so I never found out for sure.

But I often wondered, when I pottered over to the Blanchardstown Centre on a day off, how the hell it could be so busy?  Was everyone off work on the very day I was?  Were most people working night or evening shifts?  Or were there a lot of career “unemployed” in the area with lots of spare time and cash in their pockets?  Being something of a cynic, I plumped for the latter. And like most cynics, I may have been right.

IBEC* claimed in an Indo article (March 17th) that an unemployed couple with two children could receive up to €33,944 a year, or €458 a week, in welfare payments. This figure included jobseeker’s allowance (€196 a week), qualifying adult allowance (€130), and €59 a week for two sprogs. The same article claimed that a working couple would have to gross €45,000 to beat that, taking travel and lunch costs into account.  IBEC's figures, however, might have been more useful to us if they had focused on the career unemployed on benefit rather than people who have lost their employment and are on jobseeker's allowance (which lasts only one year), but they decided to go for higher figure rather than make the most obvious, valid, comparison.

Now my own research. A couple on the minimum wage of €8.65 an hour – and there are many - would only GROSS about €35,542 per annum. I assume they would pay PRSI and the income levy, though presumably not income tax. So these hard-working people are quite possibly taking in less, taking into account work-related expenses,  than those who enjoy a lifelong over-familiarity with daytime TV.  Likewise workers who find themselves suddenly unemployed, where a partner still works, find themselves at a disadvantage.  See the following example.

A letter in yesterday's Irish Times came from Ronan Murtagh of Mullingar who, having “paid taxes for almost 20 years”, found himself redundant in September 2008. He got jobseeker’s allowance for 12 months, but this was means-tested after a year, and he was told he would not qualify for benefit as his wife earns €375 a week. Nor did he qualify for mortgage allowance, as his partner works more than 30 hours a week. 

Maybe she should consider packing the job in?

Makes you wonder what kind of a place we live in.

* I detest IBEC too

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Dakota said...

You ask why, all that cash is splashing about GM, when the nation is supposed to be on its uppers? 33,944 euro for an unemployed couple and 29 billionnnnn for the banks? Why it just the PTB demonstrating Eire is a classless society/economy.

The Gombeen Man said...

It's a mad place D, and guess who pays? We O'Mugginses. Yet if I find myself on the dole through no fault of my own (and it's not beyond the bounds) I'd be in the same position as the guy above. As would many other people who've worked and paid stamps all their lives.

Dakota said...

GM I don't thing mad covers it. If an unemployed couple get that kind of money then its basically a lack of joined up thinking at a policy level. This IMO is shown by the complete lack of coordination between the agencies concerned at the "coal face." But the real and fundamental question as far as I can see is, why, is this a fact for many newly unemployed - alot of whom get virtually nothing if they were self-employed?
Well I genuinely believe corruption is a way of life here. Its almost a genetic thing now. We can blame cute hoor politicians, the banks etc, (OUH and can they be blamed!!) all we want but it comes down to the population and their cultural attitudes. Bear with me on this GM, but the madness of this countries systematic approach to problems, be they social welfare, quangos, or any other madness you care to mention, can be observed in a very straight forward medium, everyday. If you have a car, thats all you need!
All you have to do GM is drive the roads on a regular basis, especially in Dublin. Although its not as openly chaotic as other cities(when I say cities I mean 3rd world regions with regards to infrastructure in built up areas)there is a constant undercurrent of complete NONSENSICAL BEHAVIOUR which translates into any other system you care to mention, in the ROI. It really is that simple and straight forward, its chaotic and anarchic. Its no wonder career unemployed are getting so much to watch day time TV, when hard working individuals are paying more in levies. It happens because the people like it that way. People can cry into their pint or ring up as many radio shows as they like but the reality remains unchanged because the culture is there and by the looks of it, always will be. Anyways happy motoring all.......

The Gombeen Man said...

What gets me most, Dakota, is someone like the guy above who finds himself out of a job - having worked and paid taxes for 20 years - is not entitled to any State support when his Jobseeker's Allowance runs out after a year, as his wife is considered to earn too much (€375 a week) for him to qualify for income support!

So he and his wife will probably be worse off, considering they are servicing a mortgage, than if they'd never worked a day in their lives and had a corpo house or were on rent allowance!

I've a personal insight here. My old pair worked all their lives (the old man worked the most savage hours and shifts I've ever heard of) yet we were always piss poor. I don't think that people who work should be poor. Then again, there are other factors such as Ladbrokes and the rest, but less of that.

As a rule I think too many people just work to subsist in Ireland. I deffo think we need a good safety net for people out of work, and have some kind of State support when they are - including retraining.

But we have to question how we can have whole areas in Dublin (and I assume elsewhere in Ireland) consisting mainly of dole dynasties whose with generations living soley on State benefit and contributing to so many social problems, and popping out ki... Hang, on. I'm having a Kevin Myers moment here. But I do think he had a point with that one, as it happens.

To use your driving analogy, D, Ireland is the M50 in macrocosm. A scary place full off idiots doing the wrong thing completely - and proud of it.

Dakota said...

I totally agree GM, all those who pay taxes, should have the security of a financial safety net if they lose their job. There should be no loopholes. But this is Ireland. And yeah GM it is damn scary on Dublin roads. Idiocy is valued in Ireland.

A Doubtful Egg said...

Just a comment: The IBEC welfare recipients have two children. If they don't, their yearly figure drops to E30,876 (compared to E35,452 for two on mimimum wage). If the minimum-wage couple have two children, they get child benefit of E300 a month (according to the Citizen's Information website). This increases their amount to E39,142 (not including PRSI and levies), compared to the E33,944 for the welfare recipients. If I'm incorrect here, please let me know. It would be interesting, as a comparison, to see how much the head of IBEC earns!
Keep up the good work with your blog!

Lew said...

Ireland isnt alone in the way they treat people who have worked but unemployed
I cant work now due to illness, not been able to since 2006, but I never claimed benefits at the time because of my "pride"
Then I was hospitalised in 2007, in a coma for months, nearly wasnt here, but had brain surgery and recovered, tried claiming disability and unemployment, but I'm told I'm not eligible because I can walk 100M even though it hurts like hell, and I've been rushed to hospital twice where they think I had a heart attach simply becaus of the walking/breathing problems.

I cant get unemployment because my other half works and gets around 18K a year.

She was made redundant a couple of months ago and thankfully found a job 6 weeks later, but in those 6 weeks she claimed benefits, she got £54 for her, and nothing for me
Because we arent married she couldnt claim for me, so I had to claim on my own, it was refused as by then she was working, and in their words when it comes to her working, it makes no difference if we are married or not, I cant claim.

I've thought many times about going back to Ireland just to get the €200 a week payment, as she would get the same thats a huge amount and well worth it, but is it enough to move back for.
I've even considered claiming it and still living here, just visiting when needed for interviews or whatever but cant really see me doing it, much as I'd love to.

It annoys me that I have worked in both countries, I started working as a telephone operator in the local post office when I was 12 part time this ended up being full time once I was 15 and stayed there for many years yet get nothing from either.

Sometimes life just sucks.
ps sorry for such a long moaning rant/post

The Gombeen Man said...

Thanks Doubtful Egg - cheers for that info.

That's a tough situation Lew, and you have my sympathies. The work situation isn't that great here at the mo', but I think you'd get a bit more breathing space while the other half was getting sorted out. I don't think sick benefit is means tested here.

Why don't you pop into a citizens's advice bureau in Britain, or even contact one here?