Tánaiste Leo Varadkar predicts that the Irish economy will “take off like a rocket” after the pandemic.
His optimism follows damning new figures showing Ireland’s layoff rate has more than doubled in the past year.
Varadkar, who also serves as Minister of Enterprise, was notified by employers of 11,744 layoffs from March to December 2020.
The figure is a stark comparison to the 5,007 job cuts proposed during the same period in 2019, with jobs legislation requiring employers to first report any planned mass redundancies to the Department for Business.
Mr Varadkar pointed out that the figures would have been much worse if the government had not stepped in with an economic relief package – which covers Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), wage subsidies, subsidies, exemption commercial rates and low interest loans.
According to the latest figures, more than 475,000 people are currently receiving the PUP and 189,860 are on the Live Register, with the state subsidy scheme compensating thousands for lost wages.
However, these figures may not be a reliable indicator of post-pandemic unemployment levels, as many have lost their jobs due to government restrictions and are therefore not listed as potential layoffs at this time.
“We know last year was a really tough year with so many people losing their jobs and businesses to the pandemic,” Varadkar said, according to The Irish Independent.
“Any firing is personally devastating to the individual, and I know there is a family behind each of these characters.
“With Covid, so many people who had secure jobs suddenly didn’t and the life plans and financial plans they had are now on hold.”
The government will focus on educating and training those looking to change careers – even temporarily – to help them weather the economic storm of Covid-19.
“I think the Irish economy will take off like a rocket once the pandemic is over and we can get back to low levels of unemployment within a few years,” he said.
As reported by The Irish Independent, economist Jim Power pointed out that the layoff figures are well below the half a million people on the PUP, or the 598,000 on the payout at the height of the crisis last May.
Mr Power said: ‘So what’s happening is that most of these PUP workers haven’t been made redundant, and there are workers on other payment mediums that allow companies to keep them in the books.
“I think the layoff numbers obviously show a significant deterioration, but the magnitude of that deterioration without the PUP and the wage subsidy would have been catastrophic,” he added.
“However, it is extremely expensive and listening to the Taoiseach at the weekend I would not be convinced of a turnaround any time soon. Inevitably, in 2021 we will see another significant increase in those
“A lot of companies will decide it’s pointless. The longer this lasts, the greater the long-term damage will be. »
Economist Alan McQuaid said he expects unemployment rates to remain in double digits after state subsidies are withdrawn.
He said that while “we did better than we thought we were doing in terms of the economy,” it’s important to note that “layoffs are going to increase the longer this situation lasts.
“We are lucky to have pharma and technology companies, but you can’t ignore the fact that the biggest employers are SMEs and they are the ones who suffer when the dust settles.
“They’re the ones filling out those dismissal forms.”
Mr McQuaid predicts that while big tech and pharmaceutical companies in Ireland continue to thrive and construction is expected to rebound, the biggest economic losses will be in the hospitality sector, with pubs and restaurants likely to suffer.