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Working Life

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This chapter investigates how COVID-19 has impacted the working life of Irish people using data collected in the Social Impact of COVID-19 survey. Survey respondents were asked to define their current labour market status; provide information about their current working arrangements; and report the financial impact COVID-19 has had on their household. These indicators are presented in the context of other measures of satisfaction, well-being and personal concerns collected by the survey, to provide insight into how changes in working life during COVID-19 have impacted on people and households in Ireland.

Labour Market Activity

The Social Impact of COVID-19 survey collected data on respondents self-reported labour market status. Using this information from April 2020 in addition to the respondent's labour market status from the CSO's Labour Force Survey in Q1 2020, the below labour market categories were produced for the purposes of this publication. These categories do not correspond to those defined by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) or used in the Labour Force Survey.  

  • Employed and engaged in work duties;
  • Employed, but not undertaking work duties;
  • Newly labour inactive (those that were employed in Q1 2020 but report themselves as unemployed or Other in April 2020);
  • Still unemployed (unemployed in Q1 2020 and unemployed in April 2020); and
  • Still inactive in the labour market (classified as Other in April 2020 and were not employed or unemployed in Q1 2020 LFS).

Please see table 5.1 for data relating to the impact of COVID-19 on labour market activity.

Satisfaction

Those newly labour inactive were most likely to have a low life satisfaction score. Of these newly unemployed and inactive respondents, 49.1% rate their overall life satisfaction as Low, compared to 26.8% of those employed and engaged in work duties, 31.3% of those who employed, but not carrying out duties and 33.8% of those still unemployed.

The newly labour inactive cohort had the highest level of financial dissatisfaction with 52.3% reporting Low satisfaction with their household finances, compared to 38.5% of those still unemployed and 17.1% of those employed and engaged in work duties.

Those still unemployed were most likely to have Low satisfaction with personal relationships (25.9%), followed by the newly labour inactive (25.1%). The employed, but not undertaking duties were least likely to be dissatisfied with personal relationships (14.7%).

X-axis labelEmployed and engaged in work dutiesEmployed, but not undertaking work dutiesNewly labour inactiveStill unemployed
Overall life satisfaction26.831.349.133.8
Satisfaction with financial situation17.137.152.338.5
Satisfaction with personal relationships18.514.725.125.9

The newly labour inactive were the least likely to have High satisfaction for all three satisfaction indicators, with 6.1% reporting High overall life satisfaction, 8.0% reporting High financial satisfaction and 33.3% reporting High satisfaction with personal relationships.

This group of respondents were the most likely to report Not having access to non-material help (having someone to discuss matters with or getting help with doing something) (23.5%), followed by those in employment but not carrying out work duties (22.5%), while respondents employed and engaged in duties were the least likely to not have those supports, at 12.0%.

Well-being

Those employed and engaged in work duties were most likely to feel happy, with almost two in three (62.5%) reporting feeling happy At least most of the time. The newly labour inactive and the still unemployed had the lowest rate of happiness, with 49.0% and 53.5% of respondents respectively reporting feeling happy At least most of the time in the past four weeks.

The still unemployed (i.e. unemployed before COVID-19 crisis and currently unemployed) were most likely to feel lonely At least some of the time, with over half (52.6%) reporting this in the last four weeks, followed by the newly labour inactive, 36.8% of whom report feeling lonely At least some of the time. Those that were employed, but not undertaking work duties were least likely to be lonely, with 21.2% reporting feeling lonely At least some of the time.

X-axis labelAll/Most/Some of the timeA little of the timeNone of the time
Employed and engaged in work duties24.533.542
Employed, but not undertaking work duties21.233.844.9
Newly labour inactive36.831.132.1
Still unemployed52.621.725.7

Personal Concerns

Respondents who were still unemployed in April 2020 were most likely to be Very or Extremely concerned about their own health, with 36.1% reporting this. This group was also most likely to be Very or Extremely concerned about somebody else’s health (71.6%)

Those respondents employed, but not undertaking work duties in April 2020 were most concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on interrupted education, with 50.8% reporting they were Very or Extremely concerned. This compares to the newly labour inactive, 34.0% of whom were Very or Extremely concerned about the impact of interrupted education.

The newly labour inactive group were the most concerned about maintaining social ties, with 35.6% reporting they were Very or Extremely concerned, followed by those still unemployed (32.3%). The employed, but not undertaking work duties were least concerned with maintaining social ties, with 24.2% reporting they were Very or Extremely concerned about this.

X-axis labelEmployed and engaged in work dutiesEmployed, but not undertaking work dutiesNewly labour inactiveStill unemployed
Concerned about own health18.625.924.636.1
Concerned about somebody else's health67.559.957.471.6
Concerned about the impact of interrupted education43.650.83445.6
Concerned about maintaining social ties28.824.235.632.3

Those respondents who were still unemployed were most likely to be concerned about household stress with 36.4% of this group reporting they were Very concerned about household stress from confinement. The newly labour inactive group were next most likely to be Very concerned about household stress from confinement (20.1%).

Working Arrangements

The Social Impact of COVID-19 survey collected data on respondents’ working arrangements and how they have changed because of COVID-19. Questions were asked whether those employed were working from home in April 2020; whether they worked from home prior to COVID-19; and the preferred working arrangements, of those newly working from home, post COVID-19.

Please see table 5.2 for data relating to the impact of COVID-19 on working arrangements.

Those respondents who were working outside the home in April 2020 were more likely to have a low life satisfaction, with 30.0% rating their overall life satisfaction as Low, compared to 23.8% of those working from home.

Of those working from home, those who worked from home prior to COVID-19 were more likely to have a High overall life satisfaction rating (21.9%) compared to those who were working from home (11.0%) since COVID-19 restriction were put in place.

Those working from home were more likely to have High satisfaction with their financial situation of their households (30.7%) compared to those working outside the home, 21.9% of whom rated their satisfaction with the financial situation of their household as High.

Those working from home or outside the home had similar levels of High satisfaction with personal relationships, 38.4% and 39.7% respectively. Those who worked from home prior to COVID-19 were more likely to have High satisfaction with personal relationships (56.4%), compared to those new to working from home (34.9%).

X-axis labelWorking from HomeWorking Outside the HomeWorking from Home Prior to COVID-19New to Working from Home
Overall life satisfaction12.810.621.911
Satisfaction with financial situation30.721.92931
Satisfaction with personal relationships38.439.756.434.9

Respondents working outside the home were more likely to report Not having access to material help (17.1%), compared to those working from home (7.4%).

Well-being

Two thirds (65.5%) of respondents working from home reported feeling happy At least most of the time compared to those working outside of the home (59.1%). Of those working from home, 82.1% of respondents working from home Prior to COVID-19 reported feeling happy At least most of the time compared to 62.4% of those new to working from home.

Those working outside the home were most likely to report feeling very nervous, downhearted or depressed or lonely At least some of the time, with rates of 44.3%, 37.8% and 28.8% respectively. Those working from home prior to COVID-19 were least likely to feel very nervous, downhearted or depressed or lonely At least some of the time.

Of those working from home, 20.6% reported feeling lonely At least some of the time in the past four weeks, compared to 28.8% of those working outside the home, while 15.1% of those working from home prior to COVID-19 reported feeling lonely At least some of the time.

X-axis labelWorking from HomeWorking Outside the HomeWorking from Home Prior to COVID-19New to Working from Home
Feeling very nervous29.444.323.330.5
Feeling downhearted or depressed27.937.818.529.7
Feeling lonely20.628.815.121.7

Personal Concerns

Respondent working outside the home were more likely to be Very or Extremely concerned about their own health (26.3%), compared to 11.8% of those working from home. Of those new to working from home 13.1% were Very or Extremely concerned about their own health compared to 5.0% who worked from home prior to COVID-19.

Of those respondents working outside the home, 14.3% rated their chance of getting infected with COVID-19 within the next 3 months as High, compared to 4.2% of those working from home.

X-axis labelNot at allSomewhatVery / Extremely
Working from Home25.26311.8
Working Outside the Home14.459.326.3
Working from Home Prior to COVID-1917.577.55
New to Working from Home26.760.213.1

Those new to working from home were the more likely (15.1%) to be Very concerned about household stress from confinement, when compared to those working from home prior to COVID-19 (7.7%).

Over half (50.2%) of those working outside the home in April 2020 were Very or Extremely concerned with the impact of interrupted education, compared to 37.3% of those working from home. Those who were working from home prior to COVID-19 were more likely to be Very or Extremely concerned about the impact of interrupted education (52.8%) compared to those new to working from home (34.6%).

Similarly, those working outside the home were more likely (35.7%) to be Very or Extremely concerned with maintaining social ties compared to those working from home (22.8%), those who were working from home prior to COVID-19 (37.6%), and those than those new to working from home (20.0%).

Survey respondents who were new to working from home were asked about their preferred working arrangements after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. Of these respondents those who would like to remain working from home post COVID-19 restrictions, 72.5% report High satisfaction with personal relationships. Of those who would prefer to return to their place of work post COVID-19, 17.8% reported High satisfaction with personal relationships.

Of the respondents who want to return to their place of work after COVID-19, 28.3% reported feeling lonely At least some of the time compared to those who would prefer to remain working from home post COVID-19 restriction, 81.0% of whom reported feeling lonely None of the time.

Of those who would like to remain working from home post COIVD-19, over two in three (67.5%) were Not at all concerned about maintaining social ties, while 16.1% of those wanting a mixture of working from home and at their place of work had No concerns relating to maintaining social ties.

Of those who want to have a mixture of working from home and at their place of work post COVID-19, a quarter (24.2%) were Very or Extremely concerned about Maintaining social ties, compared to 7.9% of those who would prefer to remain working from home.

X-axis labelNot at allSomewhatVery / Extremely
Remain working from home67.524.67.9
Return to place of work18.96516
Mixture of both16.159.724.2

Financial Impact

The Social Impact of COVID-19 survey asked respondents to rate the impact COVID-19 has had on their household's ability to meet their financial obligations. They could rate the financial impact as major negative, moderate negative, minor negative, no impact, positive impact or too soon to tell.

Please see table 5.2 for data relating to the financial impact of COVID-19 on households.

In April 2020, 18.4% of respondents reported that COVID-19 has had a Major or Moderate negative impact on their household's ability to meet their financial obligations. A further 19.1% of respondents reported a Minor negative impact, while 45.9% were Not been financially impacted by COVID-19. A Positive impact was reported by 5.8% of respondents and 10.7% said it was Too soon to tell the financial impact of COVID-19.

X-axis labelMajor negative impactModerate negative impactMinor negative impactNo impactPositive impactToo soon to tell
Financial impact of COVID-195.113.319.145.95.810.7

The 45 to 54 age group were most likely to experience a Major or Moderate negative financial impact from COVID-19, with over a quarter (25.9%) reporting this, with a further 15.9% indicating a Minor negative impact. The three age groups 18-34, 35 to 44 and 45 to 54 experienced similar levels of negative financial impact (Major, Moderate and Minor), with the groups reporting 41.9%, 40.2% and 41.8% Negative financial impact respectively. Fewer respondents from the 55 to 69 age group were Negatively impacted financially with (35.7%) from COVID-19, while the 70 and over group were least likely to be financially impacted, with 21.1% reporting that they were Negatively impacted and 69.4% reporting No financial impact at all.  The 18 to 34 age group were most likely (7.1%) to report a Positive financial impact while the 55 to 69’s were least likely (4.3%).

X-axis labelMajor/moderate negative impactMinor negative impactNo impactPositive impactToo soon to tell
18-341922.938.77.112.1
35-4419.420.842.64.912.4
45-5425.915.939.96.611.7
55-6916.219.549.34.310.7
70 and over8.512.669.45.54.1

Labour Market Activity

Of those in employed and currently engaged in work duties, over half (50.7%) reported No financial impact from COVID-19. A Major or Moderate negative impact was experienced by 11.3% of these respondents, while 9.0% of them reported a Positive financial impact from COVID-19.

Of respondents employed, but not carrying out work duties, 27.5% had reported a Major or Moderate negative financial impact from COVID-19. A further 30.3% reported a Minor negative financial impact and 23.8% have had No financial impact.

The newly labour inactive (those who were employed in Q1 2020 but were now unemployed or labour inactive) were the most severely financially impacted by COVID-19. Of this group 38.7% reported a Major or Moderate negative financial impact, with a further 22.9% reporting a Minor negative impact and 28.0% of the cohort experiencing No financial impact.

Of the newly inactive, 21.8% reported a Major or Moderate negative financial impact from COVID-19. A further 28.8% were negatively affected in a Minor way, while 31.7% were Not impacted at all. Of this cohort, 2.3% reported being Positively financially impacted, while 15.9% reported it was Too early to tell the financial implications.

X-axis labelMajor/moderate negative impactMinor negative impactNo impactPositive impactToo soon to tell
Employed and engaged in work duties11.317.150.8911.7
Employed, but not undertaking work duties27.530.323.8216.5
Newly labour inactive38.722.9283.47
Still unemployed21.828.231.72.315.9

Households with children were most likely to be negatively financially affected by COVID-19, with 23.0% reporting Major or Moderate negative financial impact, compared to 15.4% of households with two adults and no children.

Of respondents who were in rented accommodation, 46.9% reported Major/Moderate/Minor negative financial impacts from COVID-19. This compares to 34.0% of owner-occupied respondents who reported Negative financial impacts.

Of respondents living in very disadvantaged areas, a quarter (25.4%) reported Major or Moderate negative financial impact of COVID-19, the highest rate of the deprivation groups. This was followed by affluent areas where 20.9% reported Major or Moderate negative financial Impact. Those in very affluent areas were least likely (12.9%) to report Major or Moderate negative financial impacts from COVID-19.

Satisfaction

Respondents who reported a major negative financial impact from COVID-19, were the most likely to report having Low overall life satisfaction (48.2%), and the least likely to report a High overall life satisfaction rating (0.5%).

Those who reported a no financial impact from COVID-19 were most likely to report a High overall life satisfaction rating (14.3%), followed by those that reported it was Too soon to tell the financial impact (14.0%).

Of those respondents who reported a major negative financial impact from COVID-19, three in four (75.1%) reported having Low satisfaction with the financial situation of their household and no one in this cohort reported High financial satisfaction. Conversely, the groups who reported no financial impact had the lowest Low financial satisfaction rate (6.5%) and the highest High financial satisfaction rate (37.7%).

Respondents reporting a major negative or moderate negative financial impact from COVID-19 were the most likely to report Not having access to non-material help (22.7% and 22.2% respectively), while those reporting a positive impact were the least likely (2.4%).

Well-being

Respondents who reported no financial impact from COVID-19 were most likely (70.8%) to report feeling happy At least most of the time in the past four weeks, followed by those who were positively financially impacted (64.3%). This compares to those who were majorly or moderately negatively financially affected, 46.2 % and 45.3% of whom respectively reported feeling happy At least most of the time.

Similar trends can be seen across the other well-being indicators, with those whose finances were more significantly negatively affect by COVID-19 reporting lower well-being scores. Respondents that reported major negative financial impacts were most likely to report feeling very nervous (51.8%), feeling downhearted or depressed (39.2% for major and 50.3% for moderate negative impact), and feeling lonely (41.1%) At least some of the time.  Comparatively, those reporting no financial impact had the lowest percentages in these categories, at 24.4%, 23.5%, and 19.0% respectively.

Personal Concerns

The impact COVID-19 has had on people’s ability to meet financial commitments raises concerns in other aspects of people’s lives. Of the respondents reporting a major negative financial impact from COVID-19, 78.6% were Extremely or Very concerned about the impact of interrupted education. This compares to 35.6% and 36.6% of those who were minorly negatively financially impacted and those not financially impacted respectively.

Respondents who reported COVID-19 as having a major or moderate negative impact on their financial situation or think it’s too soon to tell the financial impact were the most likely groups to be Very concerned with household stress from confinement, with 22.5%, 27.0% and 20.5% reporting this, respectively. Those that had been positively financially impacted were least likely (9.8%) to be Very concerned with household stress from confinement.

Show Table: Table 5.1 Impact of COVID-19 on Labour Market Activity by well-being and personal concerns indicators, April 2020

Show Table: Table 5.2 Impact of COVID-19 on Working Arrangements by well-being and personal concerns indicators, April 2020

Show Table: Table 5.3 Financial impact of COVID-19 on households by demographic and household characteristics and well-being indicators, April 2020

Go to next chapter >>> Other Social Impacts