Factsheets - Travellers and Work
The Mainstream Labour Market
According to Census 2002, 73% of Traveller men are unemployed compared to 9.4% of the general population. Recently, Pavee Point published a piece of research entitled "Job Vacancies...Vacant Jobs (Traveller Inclusion in the Mainstream Labour Market)'. The key issues highlighted by the research were:
- Travellers' interest in successfully accessing employment
- Travellers accessing employment by hiding their Travelle identity
- Implications of the lack of recognised skills and low levels of education among Travellers
- Discrimination in the marketplace
- More pro-active measures needed to address exclusion
As the above figures indicate, a pro-active approach is necessary on
behalf of employers to include Travellers in the labour market. The
Irish Civil Service Commission, for example, recently targeted
Travellers in an outreach project to encourage Travellers to sit civil
service exams. Ten Travellers went on to complete this exam.
Census 2002, identifies a labour force of 7,401 of which 2,257 are at work. Of those who stated the type of work they did the highest percentages were in manufacturing, construction, wholesale and retail trade and health and social work.
The Traveller Economy
The 'Traveller Economy' is the term used to describe work the Travellers initiate themselves. Scrap metal recycling, market trading and horse dealing would be examples of this type of work. The most important point to note about the Traveller economy is how the work is organised. The key features are:
- Nomadism - where mobility makes marginal activity viable
- A focus on income generation rather than job creation
- The extended family as the basic economic unit
- Home base and work base is one and the same
- Flexibility - often in response to market demands
Barriers and challenges facing the Traveller Economy stem from a lack of recognition of the skills acquired through this way of working and its contribution to the mainstream economy. The lack of acknowledgement of Traveller culture within public policy results in both direct and indirect discrimination (see Racism factsheet). For example, changes in the law on street trading and horse ownership had a particularly adverse effect on the economic life of Travellers in comparison with other groups.
Developing Other Responses
Traveller organisations and other locally based initiatives have developed employment opportunities for Travellers. These include youth and community work; childcare and class room assistants and in particular primary health care. A number of Traveller organisations also supported the establishment of etnerprises through which Travellers progressed on from training courses into employment. The EU Community Initiative EQUAL is currently exploring the development of Traveller men's skills in the Traveller Economy.
Government cutbacks in Community Employment, Jobs Initiatives and FAS Training Schemes have had a devastating effect on these responses. Cutbacks in the Government Community Development Suppport Programme is also having negative impacts on jobs in the community.