8 out of 10 Travellers are unemployed – report urges internships/opportunities

Research conducted for the St Stephen’s Green Trust (SSGT) has found that over 80% of Travellers are unemployed. This means that 8,500 of the 10,650 Travellers in the labour force are out of work or unable to find employment.

The data is contained in the Travellers in the Main stream Labour Market: Situation, Experience, and Identity January 2021 Research Report which can be accessed here.

The St. Stephen’s Green Trust say that this statistic is underpinned by a range of other issues affecting Traveller participation in the labour market, such as severe educational disadvantage and widespread and endemic inequality and discrimination in the workplace.

The Report also says that the unemployment rate for Travellers is six times that of the general population. These data further indicate that 11.3% of Travellers identified they were unable to work due to a disability; nearly three times the rate for the general population (at 4.3%).

In his foreword to the Report, the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderick O’Gorman said it is important that “all workplaces foster and embed equality and diversity policies where Travellers can, if they wish, identify as being members of the Traveller community with pride, and without fear of experiencing negative comments or stereotyping.”

The Report went on to note that ‘micro-aggressions’ were noted as a key issue by most Traveller interviewees when seeking employment.

These were often in the form of “overhearing workplace conversations that were hostile to, or negative about Travellers, or being addressed in patronising terms that identified them as somehow exceptional: “you’re not like them (other Travellers)”; “you don’t look like a Traveller at all”; “I didn’t think Travellers went to school”. A number of interviewees noted that this form of harassment was often subtle and therefore hard to challenge.”

Many of these and similar issues were previously identified in a 2019 Report, also published by SSGT called ‘Mincéir Gruber Malaid Streed, What next for Traveller Employment’.
In the intervening two years however there has been no substantial improvements in any of the key areas identified despite a range of strategies aimed at progressing employment opportunities.

That Report says that educational attainment levels amongst Travellers remain stubbornly low with an extremely low rate of young Travellers completing second level. Neither is there is any structured scheme focused on supporting young Travellers to access and stay in apprenticeships: “This indicates endemic and severe problems which must be resolved in order to make staying in school and progressing to further training/ upskilling and educational options relevant for this cohort.”

Senator Eileen Flynn, who was the first female Traveller appointed to the Seanad said the research demonstrates how Traveller parents can create the conditions for future employment by teaching their children dignity and self-worth and that Travellers in employment are important role models.

St Stephen’s Green Trust says it is “a charitable foundation which respects human dignity and is committed to helping create a society where the dignity of all can be realised through social justice and inclusive, nurturing communities.”

It manages three grant programmes focused on improving the life chances of Traveller such as the Travellers Employment & Enterprise Policy Programme –the Travellers in Prison Initiative (TPI) and the Travellers Accommodation Grant Programme.

In 2019 it received €637,280 in income from Grants from State bodies and other co-funders.

This included significant donations from the Discalced Carmelites, the Mercy Sisters, the Irish Prison Services and the Probation Services as well as the Presentation Sisters and The Congregation of the Daughters of the Cross of Liege.

This serves to highlight, yet again, the hidden but valuable work that many of the religious orders continue to provide away from the glare of the public spotlight.

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