Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton has said the rate of youth unemployment is falling significantly as the Government is incentivising young people not to be trapped in unemployment and is getting them into training.
During Minister's Questions, Fianna Fáil’s Willie O'Dea asked the minister how many people under-26 were receiving Jobseeker's Allowance, and if the change in payments after the Budget had reduced the unemployment figure for people under the age of 26.
Ms Burton told the Dáil there are 65,400 people under-26 receiving Job Seeker's Allowance.
Mr O'Dea said that in the last Budget, social welfare payments to people under-26 were reduced quite substantially on the basis that they should be encouraged to apply for jobs or training places.
Ms Burton said that at the end of December last year there were 300,590 recipients of Job Seeker's Allowance and up to 100,000 of them were working part-time or signing for credits and that number has fallen since.
She told Mr O'Dea that reduced rates of Jobseeker's Allowance for younger people were first introduced when Fianna Fáil was in government in 2009.
She said that Budget 2014 further extended the rates of Job Seeker's Allowance for recipients under-26.
This measure aims to incentivise young people to avail of education and training opportunities, she told the Dáil.
She said that if a young person in receipt of the reduced allowance participates in a training programme they will receive a higher weekly payment of €160.
There are currently 4,700 individuals under-26 who are entitled to a reduced rate of Jobseeker's Allowance on a Solas-funded training course and about 5,000 are attending other courses such as Youthreach, she said.
She said that at the end of March there were 57,000 Jobseeker recipients under-26, of whom 36,800 were in receipt of a reduced Jobseeker's Allowance.
The minister said that the equivalent figure for December 2013 was 65,400 jobseekers under-26.
She said that the rate of youth unemployment is falling significantly as the Government is incentivising young people to get into training.
Mr O'Dea pointed out that under the old scheme if somebody could not access an education or training place they would not suffer a reduction in their jobseeker's payment.
He said that in a reply to a parliamentary question received last week, the minister said that people between 16 and 65 who are neither in employment, training or education now numbers 85,200.
He said the changes in the Budget provided no incentive.
Quoting from former Minister for Social Welfare Mary Hanafin, Ms Burton said Minister Hanafin said in May 2009 that in order to incentivise young people to gain training opportunities, changes were been made to Jobseeker's Allowance to protect people from welfare dependency.