Getting to Work on Traveller Unemployment
“The issue is Travellers have always had it tough in securing employment, the crash was neither here nor there. Irish Travellers were at a disadvantage before the recession, during it and are still stuck in the same place during what we are calling the ‘recovery’”.
The employment numbers might be rising every month, but it’s a tide of national success that has definitely not lifted all boats. This is the opinion of the new Traveller Employment and Enterprise Policy Officer, Sinéad Burke.
Employed by the St Stephen’s Green Trust and based in the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed, Sinéad has been charged with identifying national policies that aren’t working for Travellers and more importantly, promoting ones that will. It’s a big, but important task.
Says Sinéad, “The national figures around unemployment look pretty good on paper, but when you drill down into the details the full picture is less positive. Certainly the number of employed people has never been higher, however those who have not been able to secure jobs are by and large those who are attempting to overcome social and educational barriers other job seekers are not. Since the economic crash there has been genuine government effort put into upskilling, job coaching and helping people get back into a job. This has definitely worked for a considerable number of jobseekers who were job ready and relatively easy to move back into employment. The issue is Travellers have always had it tough in securing employment, the crash was neither here nor there. Irish Travellers were at a disadvantage before the recession, during it and are still stuck in the same place during what we are calling the ‘recovery’”.
A recent report published by the St Stephen’s Green Trust, Mincéir Gruber Malaid Streed, What Next for Traveller Employment, outlines in stark numbers the challenges members of the Traveller community encounter trying to find employment:
- According to the 2016 Census there are 30,987 Travellers living in Ireland;
- 13% of Traveller women have completed secondary school;
- 57% of Traveller men have completed primary school;
- 1% of Travellers progress to 3rd level education;
- 82% of Travellers at the working age are unemployed;
- A national survey of the general public on Travellers carried out by Behaviour & Attitudes in 2017 “asked if they would employ a Traveller to which only 17% responded positively”.
As well as outlining the current situation the report also provides recommendations on how to address the problem. It suggests all employment services should review how they interact with Travellers, centres who are doing a good job should share their learning and Local Enterprise Offices must develop strategies to support the Traveller economy and social enterprises. The creation of Traveller apprenticeships also has to be looked at, particularly initiatives attractive to Traveller women. The Public Service is being asked to review their recruitment processes and support a National Action Plan to ensure targets would be set for each agency and dept.
Sinéad continues, “Basically, we need to get real about supporting Travellers into employment. This means naming Travellers as a target group for all enterprise and educational supports, putting in quotas across the civil and public service and amending application processes which currently ensure Traveller applicants fall at the first fence. The government has expressed a wish for a more inclusive and diverse work force, now it’s time to put those words into action. The biggest barrier to full Traveller employment is discrimination. The state as an employer and educator must lead by example. The Irish economy might be back in calm waters at the moment, but not everyone is allowed on the boat.”