Under 25s disproportionately hit by furlough and lay offs, says new Ulster University report

People under the age of 25 have been disproportionately impacted by furlough and lay offs, a new Ulster University report concludes.
Ryan McAleer

A NEW economic paper from Ulster University estimates that 258,000 people have been furloughed or laid off in the north during the coronavirus pandemic, with young people and those in lower paid jobs disproportionately affected.

The research from the university’s Economic Policy Centre (EPC) states the number accounts for 30 per cent of all employment in Northern Ireland.

It estimates that Mid Ulster is the worst hit district, with 20 per cent of the workforce currently furloughed. One in five workers in Antrim and Newtownabbey are also estimated to be furloughed.

One-in-four workers affected are from the retail and wholesale sector, with an estimated 34,700 sales assistants and cashiers impacted.

While the total number of food and beverage service jobs affected are lower, the paper states that they account for 80 per cent of sector, around 26,800 jobs.

Published on Tuesday, the paper entitled ‘Labour market implications of Covid-19’, has been authored by Mark Magill and Marguerite McPeake.

They said the paper seeks to identify the socio-economic characteristics of the workers temporarily or permanently impacted as a result of COVID-19.

It concluded that young people under the age of 25 have the worst affected age group, with around 45% of workers under the age of 25 estimated to have been furloughed or laid off.

It predicts that the issue will become increasingly evident in the coming months as a wave of education qualifiers seek to enter the labour market, with many facing difficulties in transitioning from their part-time job to their chosen careers.

The report also found that that people in lower paid jobs, including administrative and services roles, have experienced the most severe impact.

The category includes bar, waiting and catering staff, cleaners and security workers.

The construction sector has also been disproportionately hit, with around 27,000 jobs impacted.

All three construction sub-sectors are listed in a top ten of detailed sectors worst hit by coronavirus restrictions.

The sector accounts for around seven per cent of people in employment, but represents 12 per cent of people who are furloughed or laid off.

While the report flags up areas with the highest rates of furloughed workers, it states that Derry City and Strabane along with Belfast continue to suffer the lowest employment rates.

“Any labour market interventions in the recovery period should be equally concerned with those already unemployed before the crisis,” note the authors.

They also recommend encouraging education leavers to delay entering the labour market, and instead undertake a qualification on the next rung of the qualifications ladder.

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