SOCIAL WELFARE INTERNSHIP SCHEME - GOOD IDEA BUT NEEDS TO BE MONITORED
- Category: Jobs
Debate on the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill took place in the Dáil chamber on Wednesday, June 8th. Mick gave his views on the proposed internship scheme for those in reciept of social welfare. He also spoke about social welfare and corporation tax fraud as well the age at which a person is entitled to a pension. Click here to watch Mick's speech in full. I agree very much with some of the points made by Deputy Ross with regard to abuses of the system in place, and there is little doubt there has been a culture of abuses in this country for a long time. However, some interesting research carried out in Britain last year showed for 2009 that social welfare fraud amounted to between £1.5 billion and £2 billion, which is a lot of money, but it also showed that tax evasion in the same year by the richest people in society, including the large corporations, amounted to £80 billion. While I would of course agree with tackling fraud in the social welfare system, we should also examine the other end of the spectrum, where the State has great potential to reap a good reward. With regard to the Bill, many of the measures have been discussed at this stage of the debate. As I have said previously, as an employer, I know the VAT change was a huge boost to the restaurant and hotel industry - I am not sure everybody realises how much of a boost it is. The PRSI measure is also a boost, if not by quite as much. One point about the PRSI change is that the Government needs to consider the amount of PRSI evasion in the restaurant and hotel industry. I know from taking on people and bringing them in from working in other restaurants that they are often not registered. There is serious evasion in the industry and while I do not know if work is being done to tackle this, it certainly needs to be done. In principle, the internship scheme is a good idea although I am aware that some will abuse the system. There is some evidence that Tesco, which made €200 million here last year, has been taking on people under the scheme when too often it amounts to no more than free labour. While the scheme is a good idea, it needs to be monitored. In checking whether such schemes were much used elsewhere, I found some information from the United States which gives an idea of the thinking there on the issue. The US Department of Labour has outlined a list of criteria that must be met in order for an internship to be unpaid, which is the system to be introduced here. In the US, the training must be for the benefit of the trainee, the trainees must not displace regular employees, the employer that provides the training must derive no immediate advantage from taking on the individual and unpaid work is only acceptable where the future benefit outweighs the short-term absence of pay. If the Irish system is to be in the best interests of society, the State and the people, it needs to be very well monitored. I will conclude by raising the issue of the age at which a person is entitled to a pension. I regard the proposed change as a retrograde step. If this had been mentioned five years ago when things were okay, we would have been laughed out of the place. At the time I, for one, was being encouraged to get involved in industries that related to providing leisure time activities because we were wondering what people would do with all of their free time as we would be working fewer hours, be more productive and everyone would be in a better situation. Following the Second World War, there was huge social progress in how society was organised. In the past 20 years, it is unfortunate that the top 1% have garnered more and more of the profits and there is less effort to create a fair society. It was not just because of the bailout that we are considering increasing the age at which one can draw one’s pension. We must remember that it is only 12 months ago that the French were on the streets fighting on the same issue. It suits the large corporations and big business for the working age to be increased but it is hardly in the best interests of ordinary people.