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Persons not in 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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Persons not in the Labour Force

The background notes at the end of this release contains the definitions for respondents to the Labour Force Survey (LFS) to be classified as employed, unemployed or inactive based on the ILO criteria. Respondents in the LFS 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 has had a peculiar effect on the Labour Market in Ireland in that displaced workers 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 due to the public health restrictions associated with COVID-19. 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, Q2 2019 to Q2 2021

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 however 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 2 of 2019 to 2021.

Employment fell by 158,100 to 2,138,100 in the year to Q2 2020. However, instead of an increase in unemployment as may have been expected, there was an increase of 164,700 in the PALF bringing it to 292,400 in Q2 2020. Virtually all of this increase was accounted for those ‘available for work but not seeking work’. This reflected the adverse effect of the pandemic a year ago. As the economy began to open up again in Q2 2021, people returned to employment which is reflected in the annual increase of 211,000 in employment between Q2 2020 and Q2 2021 bringing the numbers employed to 2,349,100. In addition, people were not only available for work but were now seeking work as well and this is reflected in a fall over the year of 114,200 in the PALF category and a rise of 63,000 in the numbers who were unemployed.

Q2 2021Q2 2020Q2 2019
Available for work but not seeking work154.8278112.5
Seeking work but not immediately available23.414.415.1

Persons may also want to work but are unable to do so for a number of reasons and Figure 2 shows the breakdown of this category for Quarter 2 of 2019 through to Q2 2021.

Q2 2021Q2 2020Q2 2019
Other reasons21.417.59.2
Care responsibilities/personal family reasons26.430.128.4
Own illness or disability28.434.134.5
Education or training23.818.327.9

In Q2 2021, 23.8% of person who wanted to work but were not seeking work or available due to education of training. This compares to 18.3% a year earlier and 27.9% in Q 2 2019.  Persons with own illness or disability accounted for 28.4% of the total and this was less than the 34.1% and 34.5% recorded in both Q2 2020 and Q2 2019 respectively. Persons who had care responsibilities/personal family reasons accounted for 26.4% in Q2 2021 and this was down from the 30.1% recorded a year earlier and 28.4% in Q2 2019.

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