The National Youth Council of Ireland has urged the Government to restore the higher rate of Pandemic Unemployment Payment for all under-25s who are unemployed or deliver a massive jobs support package to assist them.

The youth council notes that the Covid-19 pandemic has hit the employment prospects of young people hard, with over a third of under-25s in the labour force (36.5%) currently out of work.

It says that while this age group comprises just 11% of the workforce, it accounts for 21% of PUP recipients, and that the situation is made worse because emigration is largely closed off.

Responding to a Parliamentary Question from Labour Finance Spokesperson Ged Nash, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection confirmed that as of last week, 45,461 under-25s were claiming the PUP, with 18,104 of those based in Dublin.

The comparable national figure for those aged 25-30 was 26,052.

"With 36.5% youth unemployment, young people comprising 21% of those on the PUP (despite only making up 11% of the workforce), and a further 28,777 young people on the live register, the pandemic has hit the employment prospects of young people hard," said NYCI Deputy Director James Doorley.

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The DEASP figures also indicate that 58% of under-25s are receiving the lower PUP rates (€203 or €250 per week), while almost two-thirds of older workers are entitled to the highest rate of €300.

"We are calling on the Government to either restore all those who lost their job as a result of the pandemic to the highest rates, or alternatively deliver a massive injection of funds in education, training and access to apprenticeships in Budget 2021 to counteract the impact of the pandemic on the employment and future career prospects of young people," said Mr Doorley.

Sinn Féin's Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty has said Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe was wrong to cut the PUP. 

Speaking to RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Doherty said the Government has reversed its position on the matter and called for cuts that were made to PUP be reversed.  

He said the PUP deficit will be about €22m. 

Mr Doherty said employers are not in a position to sail through this period.  

The NYCI demands include support for voluntary youth organisations, employment, social protection supports, measures to tackle youth homelessness and climate justice.

Responding to Mr Nash, Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys said the programme for government had committed to improve jobseekers' supports for people aged under 24 over the lifetime of this Government.

The minister outlined a €200m package of proposals, including expanding funded job placement and work experience programmes to keep young people aligned to the labour market, as well as incentives for employers to recruit apprentices and young jobseekers from the live register.

She also cited plans to extend access to the Back to Education Allowance to PUP recipients and deliver 35,500 new places in further and higher education courses.

Ms Humphreys said the department was also developing "Pathways to Work 2020-2025" to build on the work of the July Jobs Stimulus to assist young people into employment.

The NYCI represents organisations working with more than 380,000 young people nationwide.