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Persons not in the Labour Force

LFS estimates were updated on 22nd Feb 2024 to incorporate updated population estimates for the period 2016 Q3 to 2023 Q3, based on the results of Census 2022. LFS results are updated in this way following each Census of Population. For further information see Background Notes.
The data in this publication does not reflect these updates. Please refer to the relevant tables on LFS Px-stat for updated LFS estimates.

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The Background Notes at the end of this release contain the definitions for respondents to the Labour Force Survey (LFS) to be classified as employed, unemployed or inactive based on the ILO criteria. Respondents are first asked a suite of questions to check if they were Employed. If a person is not classified as Employed, they are asked a suite of questions to determine if they should be classified as Unemployed. The criteria are as follows:

  • Not classified as Employed
  • Has been actively seeking work in the 4 weeks prior to interview
  • Is available to start work in the 2 weeks after the interview

Persons aged 15 years or over are classified as not being in the Labour Force (Inactive) if they do not satisfy the ILO criteria for being classified as being Employed or Unemployed.

Unlike previous downturns, the COVID-19 Pandemic had a peculiar effect on the Labour Market in Ireland. This is because displaced workers during COVID-19 lockdown were more likely to be classified as Inactive rather than Unemployed as the majority, although available to start work, had not been seeking work in the previous 4 weeks. Thus, they failed to meet the criteria to be classified as Unemployed.

Table 8.1 Detailed breakdown of classification of persons aged 15 years or more not in the Labour Force, Q1 2020 to Q1 2022

The Potential Additional Labour Force (PALF) is the sum of the two groups ‘Seeking work but not immediately available’ and ‘Available for work but not seeking work’. Persons in the PALF are not part of the standard labour force, which encompasses only Employed and Unemployed people, but they have a stronger attachment to the labour market than other persons not in the labour force. Persons ‘Available for work but not seeking work’ accounted for the majority of the PALF in Quarter 1 of 2020 to 2022.

The number of persons in employment increased by 275,200 in the year to Q1 2022. This was accompanied by a fall of 43,800 in the number of persons unemployed and a fall of 172,400 in the number of persons outside of the labour force. This meant that persons re-entering the labour market in Q1 2022 were far more likely to have found a job rather than being classified as unemployed.

Q1 2020Q1 2021Q1 2022
Available for work but not seeking work94.8194.768.3
Seeking work but not immediately available14.216.112.7

Persons may also want to work but are unable to do so for a number of reasons and Figure 8.2 shows the breakdown of this category for Quarter 1 of 2020 through to Q1 2022

Q1 2020Q1 2021Q1 2022
Other reasons9.1635916359163632.696759259259311.5346038114343
Care responsibilities/personal family reasons28.843788437884418.807870370370424.0722166499498
Own illness or disability32.164821648216527.372685185185240.2206619859579
Education or training29.827798277982821.180555555555624.172517552658

Of those who stated that they wanted to work but were not seeking work or available for work in Q1 2022, 24.2% said this was due to education or training. This compares to 21.2% a year earlier and 29.8% in Q1 2020. Persons with own illness or disability accounted for 40.2% of the total in Q1 2022 and this was more than the 32.2% and 27.4% recorded in both Q1 2020 and Q1 2021 respectively.