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Pathways to Work: Government unveils ambitious plan to get people back to work post-Pandemic

  • Strategy aims to help 75,000 long-term unemployed into work
  • Subsidies of up to €10,000 for employers who take people off the Live Register
  • New Work Placement Experience Programme to provide 10,000 paid, quality placements
  • Special package of supports for young people; Youth unemployment to reduce from 44% to 12.5% by 2023
  • 50,000 further and higher education training places to be provided
  • €1,000 Training Support Grant for jobseekers
  • Focus on utilising Remote Working and e-Learning opportunities to help people into the workforce
  • New Pay Related Jobseekers Payment to be developed


Monday, July 12th, 2021

The Government has today launched Pathways to Work 2021-2025 – an ambitious new strategy designed to drive employment as Ireland recovers from COVID-19.

The national employment strategy, which contains 83 commitments across all Government Departments, was launched today in Dundalk by Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys, Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris, and Minister of State with responsibility for Business and Employment Damien English.

Pathways to Work builds on the Government’s Economy Recovery Plan in kick-starting a jobs rich recovery, ensuring there are 2.5 million people in work by 2024.

The strategy will remove barriers to employment, provide tens of thousands of training and education places, significantly enhance the Public Employment Service, provide incentives to employers to take people off the Live Register, and deliver a special package of supports for young people.

 Among the key commitments include:

  • Reduce long-term unemployment: Get 75,000 long-term unemployed people into employment by July 2023.
  • Young people: Reduce youth employment to 12.5%, provide 50,000 further education and training places, deliver 10,000 apprenticeships, recruitment subsidies for employers who take young people off the Live Register; ring-fence 1,000 place on Community Employment and Tús programmes.
  • Work Placement Experience Programme: In line with international best practice, provide 10,000 paid quality work placements, 4,000 of which will be reserved for young people. Participants on the scheme will be paid €306 per week with additional amounts payable in respect of dependent adults / children.
  • Employers: Recruitment subsidies of between €7,500 and €10,000 for employers who take people off the live register.
  • Employment Services: Host 150 job promotion events per annum, significantly enhance the capacity of the Public Employment Service, Intreo, and assign a dedicated case officer to all unemployed people to help them back to work.
  • €1,000 Training Support Grant: Provided to jobseekers to avail of short term, accredited training programmes.
  • Welfare Reform: Drawing on the experience of the pandemic, develop proposals for a basic income guarantee and a new pay-related short-duration jobseeker payment.
  • Leaving Nobody Behind: Extend targeted employment supports to groups facing challenges entering the workforce such as people with disabilities, lone parents and minority groups, including travellers.
  • Remote Working: Provide remote working options to participants of work placement, education and training schemes.


Today’s Pathways to Work launch took place at the Advanced Manufacturing & Technology Training Centre of Excellence in Dundalk.

Speaking at the launch, An Taoiseach Micheál Martin TD, said:

Last month, Government launched our Economic Recovery Plan. This Plan charts Ireland’s long-term, jobs-led recovery with a focus on building back better.

“The overall ambition of the Plan is to exceed pre-crisis employment levels by reaching 2.5 million people in work by 2024. Crucially, though, these jobs will be more productive, more resilient and more secure.

“A critical step in delivering upon this ambition and overcoming the shock to our labour market is the implementation of our new national employment services strategy: Pathways to Work, 2021-2025.

“Therefore, Government is committed to delivering on the ambitions and commitments set out in the strategy in order to drive a jobs-led economic recovery, to build back better, and to build back fairer.”


Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humphreys TD, said:

“As we recover from this pandemic, Pathways to Work is about ensuring we support and assist tens of thousands of our citizens in entering or re-entering the workforce.


“It’s about leaving nobody behind, providing new opportunities to retrain and re-skill and, above all, giving people the support they need to secure quality, sustainable employment.


“This is important for our society, our economy and for every unemployed person, whether they lost their jobs due to COVID or who were already unemployed pre-COVID.


“This will be a jobs-led recovery that puts the needs of our citizens first. We know from past experience the damaging impact long-term unemployment can have.


“Through this ambitious new strategy, we will support people in every way possible, helping them to start, or restart their careers and improve their quality of life.”


Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, added:


“The Pathways to Work strategy is an important part of Ireland’s response to the pandemic and will play a key role in how we, as a country, will recover and rebuild. As a Government, we want to get people back to work in good, quality jobs which are sustainable and will last into the future.

“My Department has a responsibility to ensure people have the right skills. Today, we are also announcing an important initiative with Skillnet Ireland and Technology Ireland to assist unemployed individuals to develop core and advanced digital skills to get employment in areas where the economy is growing.

“Tech in Ireland is responding to what employers need and ensures people who have lost their jobs have a pathway to a new and sustainable career.”


Minister of State with responsibility for Business, Employment and Retail, Damien English TD, continued:

“Many Irish businesses, large and small, have gone through the most difficult time imaginable over the past 16 months. This is why it was vital for Government to put in place a range of measures to help protect jobs and those businesses survive across the country during the pandemic.

“As we look forward to the months ahead, Pathways to Work will set out the next steps towards a jobs-led economic recovery. This strategy includes commitments designed to support businesses to recruit and train new employees, particularly our young people and those who are currently unemployed.”



Work Placement Experience Programme

Alongside the Pathways to Work strategy, Government also launched a new Work Placement Experience Programme. This new programme will benefit 10,000 jobseekers of all ages, who have been unemployed for more than six months (including time in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment).

This initiative will keep jobseekers close to the labour market and provide them with quality work experience to increase their prospects of returning to employment. Participation will be entirely voluntary and the payment rate for participants on this programme is set at €306 per week. 

The Department of Social Protection worked closely with the Further Education and Training sector, to ensure that this work experience programme includes significant accredited training and development opportunities for participants.  Both elements of the scheme, will contribute to ensuring that participants will be much better positioned on the labour market to find new jobs on completion of this programme.

The total cost of this programme over two years is €95 million with a contribution of €27 million from the National Training Fund. This programme is also included as a priority for funding under the National Resilience and Recovery Plan submitted to the EU Commission.

On this new Work Experience Programme, Minister Humphreys noted:

“This new programme will provide unemployed people with the opportunity to build their work experience and avail of accredited training and development opportunities.

“It will be available, on a no-strings, voluntary basis, to all people who have been unemployed for more than six months – including recipients of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment.


“Taking the advice of the Labour Market Advisory Council and building on the experience of the Youth Employment Support Scheme, all participants on this new scheme will have access to formal certified or sector recognised training. The delivery of this scheme will be monitored by my Department.


“Participants will be paid €306 per week for 30 hours - a payment in line with open labour market rates.


“Importantly, and reflecting our determination to tackle youth unemployment, up to 4,000 of the 10,000 places on the programme will be ring-fenced for young people.


“I strongly encourage employers and jobseekers alike to participate and get involved in this new work placement experience programme over the coming months.”


Progress under Pathways to Work 2021-2025 will be monitored against the commitments and indicators it sets out. This will be done through annual progress reports and a mid-term review of the strategy in 2023 with the support of the Labour Market Advisory Council.



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Note for Editors

Pathways to Work 2021-2025: Overview

Pathways to Work 2021-2025 represents the next iteration of the Government’s national employment services strategy and is the Government’s overall framework for activation and employment support policy.

Pathways to Work 2021-2025 is a multi-annual strategy with a mid-term review to be undertaken in 2023. The aim of the strategy, which contains 83 specific commitments, is to assist people back to work as the economy and labour market recovers from COVID-19.

Pathways to Work 2021-2025 is a key delivery mechanism of the national Economic Recovery Plan, in particular for its second Pillar on ‘Helping people back into work’. The Economic Recovery Plan seeks to foster a jobs-led recovery, with Pathways to Work’s goal being to ensure that as many of these opportunities as possible are filled by people who are unemployed.

This strategy sets out how the Public Employment Service can utilise its capacity to deliver effective services in a post-COVID labour market, with increased demands for such services amongst those who have permanently lost jobs arising from the pandemic. 

In addition, the strategy will seek to support those who were unemployed or underemployed prior to the pandemic, particularly those who face additional challenges, such as people with disabilities, lone parents and minority groups, including people from the Traveller and Roma communities.

Pathways to Work: Ambition

By delivering on its 83 commitments, the strategy’s ambition is to restore unemployment back to or below their pre-pandemic levels of 2019, when the economy was close to full employment.

Specifically, we aim to:

  • Reduce long-term unemployment. Get 75,000 long-term unemployed people into employment by July 2023.
  • Reduce the proportion of long-term unemployed jobseekers to 2.5% of the labour force in 2025.
  • Reduce the Youth Unemployment Rate back to, or below, the 2019 average of 12.5% by 2023.
  • Improve employment rates of people from disadvantaged or minority backgrounds. This will include targeting an increase in employment rates of lone parents from 63% to the EU average of 74% and for people with disabilities from 22% to 33%.
  • Reduce unemployment durations by reducing the rate at which newly unemployed people progress into long-term unemployment back to, or below, its pre-pandemic level of 16% by 2023.

Implementation and Monitoring

The Department of Social Protection will have overall responsibility for the implementation of this strategy and will report on progress to the Cabinet Committee on the Economy and its Senior Official’s Group.

External oversight will be entrusted to the Labour Market Advisory Council. As part of this work, the Council will monitor the delivery of individual actions against the agreed timelines and will assess the further development of metrics, statistics and a programme of evaluations over the lifetime of this strategy.

The Labour Market Advisory Council will be asked to provide an annual report to the Minister for Social Protection in Quarter 3 of each year providing its view on progress, remedial actions that may need to be taken and any new actions that it considers should be included. An annual review and report of progress against all commitments will then be published in Q4 each year.

A formal review of the strategy will be undertaken with the Labour Market Advisory Council in Q1 and Q2 2023 and an updated strategy will be published in Q4 2023.