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Labour Force Assumptions

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The labour force is comprised of persons who are either employed or unemployed and the definition used in this analysis is that prescribed by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and used in the Irish Labour Force Survey (LFS).  Projected labour force estimates are calculated by applying average labour force participation rates to the different projected population cohorts.  As the labour force projections cover the period up to and including 2031, fertility does not impact in any way as only those aged 15 and over are considered to be in the labour force and accordingly only the migration variants are relevant when examining labour force projections.  The labour force assumptions agreed by the Expert Group are summarised in the table below.

Labour Force Assumptions Agreed

Persons aged 15 - 24
- Gentle increases in labour force participation anticipated for younger males and females (students and non-students)
- Convergence between males and female labour force participation rates
- 3rd Level attendance – Student rates expected to remain broadly in line with 2016 levels to 2031

Persons aged 25 – 74+
- Increased labour force participation across most 5 year age groups to 2031 for both males and females.
- The largest percentage increases in labour force participation are projected within the older age cohorts
- The number of married women in the labour force is projected to decrease due to declining marriage rates

Participation rates are applied to the relevant sub-populations of five-year age groups for men and women. The age groups 15 - 19 and 20 - 24 are further split between those in the education system and those outside, while women aged 25 years and over are classified by marital status (i.e. married and single) with separate participation rates applied to both groups. While it might appear preferable to distinguish women on the basis of those with and without dependent children, it was decided to continue to use marital status as an alternative while recognising that the single category contains a growing number of lone parents and partners in cohabiting couples. 

The rates underpinning the labour force assumptions are outlined in the following sections.

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The projected female population aged 25 years and over is first divided into two categories – married and single. Table 7.1 shows the percentage of females who were married in each age group as measured by the 2006, 2011 and 2016 Censuses of Population, along with the rates assumed for 2021, 2026 and 2031.

Table 7.1 Married females classified by age group, 2006 - 2031

The table shows declining rates of marriage up to 2016 for all age groups with the exception of those aged 65 and over. This downward trend is projected to continue as the recent decline in marriage rates amongst those aged 25 - 49 filters through to the older age groups as the population ages.

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While only 66 per cent of 15 - 19 year males were in education in 2006, this had increased to 85% by 2016.  The older age group of 20 - 24 year olds showed a similar rise from 15% to 30%.  The corresponding rates for younger females showed a smaller rise of just 6 percentage points in the same period.  Projecting these rates forward, the participation rates of younger males and females are expected to remain consistent with 2016 levels.  Participation rates for males and females aged 20 - 24 are projected to increase slightly as people remain in education longer.  See table 7.2.

Table 7.2 Education participation rates by sex and age group, 2006 - 2031

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The labour force participation of students is largely a reflection of the extent to which they are involved in part-time work while in full-time education.  The rates for 15 - 19 year olds were 20 and 21 per cent for males and females respectively in 2016, recovering from recent lows in 2011.  These rates are projected to recover further by 2021 and remain constant at this new rate until 2031.  The rates for 20 - 24 year olds are projected to show further improvement with some convergence between male and female rates.  The participation rates of non-students aged 15 - 24 fell substantially between 2006 and 2011 but have recovered somewhat to 2016.  This gradual improvement is projected to continue to 2031.  See table 7.3.

Table 7.3 Labour Force participation rates by education status, sex and age group, 2006 2031

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For males aged 25 - 54 labour force participation rates are projected to remain broadly in line with 2016 levels, with some scope for small improvement.  Rates for older males (55 - 69) are projected to show proportionately larger increases, particularly for those aged 60 and over, reflecting a greater propensity to remain in the labour force among older people and increases to the mandatory retirement age.

It is assumed the major gains in the labour force participation rates of married females in the recent past will level off as the labour participation rates of married and ‘other females’ begin to converge.  Accordingly the scope for additional gains is considered somewhat limited.  Larger increases are anticipated for those aged 55 - 69 in line with their male counterparts.  The actual labour force participation rates for 2006, 2011 and 2016 as well as the assumed labour force participation rates for 2021, 2026 and 2031 are given in table 7.4 for males, married females and other females respectively.

Table 7.4 Labour force participation rates by sex and age group, 2006 - 2031

While this report contains a number of summary tables, detailed results of the population projections from 2017 to 2051 are available on the CSO Statbank here.

Go to: Appendix 1 - Population and Labour Force Projection Model