Still 413,000 on Covid-19 pandemic unemployment scheme may worry new coalition

Pictured is Tánaiste and Minister of Business, Enterprise, and Innovation Leo Varadkar arriving at Dublin Castle today ahead of the Cabinet meeting. Picture: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

There are still almost 413,000 people on the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP) more than six weeks since the start of the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, suggesting the new Government faces a big headache if it wishes to wind down the scheme at an early stage.

The numbers on the PUP scheme fell by 26,100 to 412,900 people, the Department of Social Protection said.

Officials have long expected that the number of people availing of the PUP would fall rapidly but the gradual decline in recent weeks has surprised many economists and may point to a higher level of long-term unemployment than once feared.     

The number of people on the other main Covid-19 unemployment support, the wage-support scheme, stands at 410,000, according to Revenue figures last week, which means that over 1m people need some sort of welfare payment to make ends meet during the crisis when the official live register of the unemployed are also taken into account.  

The Central Bank said last week that unemployment will return to its pre-Covid-19 levels in late 2023 and only then if there is no new outbreak of the disease. 

The number of unemployed has risen from its pre-Covid level of 110,000, or around 5% of the labour force, to 600,000 currently, and will likely fall to around 220,000 towards the middle of next year.

It will only return to the pre-crisis level in late 2023, according to the bank's projections, which do not include people whose jobs are subsidised by the public purse under the wage-subsidy scheme.