Over 5,600 Midlands drinks and hospitality jobs in danger

A leading economist has warned that over 5,600 jobs in the accommodation and food sector could be lost across the Midlands by the end of the year due to the impact of Covid-19.

In a wide-ranging report, DCU Business School economist, Anthony Foley, warned that young people in the 15-24 age group in the four Midlands counties are particularly at risk from job losses with over 1,800 jobs in pubs, hotels and restaurants in jeopardy unless further supports are provided by the government.

The report was commissioned by the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (DIGI), who have called for a broad package of measures to be provided by government, including a 15% reduction in excise tax on drinks to support the industry and minimise the risk of job losses.

Accommodation and food service jobs makes up 6.6% of all employment in Westmeath, Longford, Laois and Offaly, with 31.8% of all workers in the sector aged between 15-24 and the majority of all employees (54.6%) are women.

As Dublin returns to lockdown for another three weeks and the entire country remains on Level Two of the government’s “National Framework for Living with Covid-19” the DCU report suggests that as many as 63% of all accommodation and food services jobs in Ireland, including those in pubs, restaurants and hotels could be lost by the end of 2020 without further supports. This includes a staggering 36,300 jobs among the 15-24 age group.

The industry’s current commercial environment is dire: restaurants are operating at approximately 60% capacity, pubs serving food at 50%, and hotels at 25%. These figures are unlikely to improve over Christmas and the winter period. Tourism is non-existent, and few social or cultural activities are permitted.

Liam Reid, Chair of DIGI said: “Dublin’s lockdown, and further restrictions on restaurants and pubs serving food, will have grave material consequences for thousands of livelihoods, hundreds of businesses and local communities, and Ireland's long-term economic prospects.

“Every drinks and hospitality business owner across the country realises the public health risks associated with Covid. They have supported the longest hospitality lockdown in Europe and where they have been able to open, they have taken steps to ensure their staff and customers are safe, and that their premises are controlled environments, and invested tens of thousands of euros doing so.

“If the 2008 crash showed us anything, it's that what we lose now cannot be simply reconstructed next year. If businesses cannot operate, jobs will go. This is a highly precarious industry, and every week of closure counts. The long-term risk is enormous, and a specific package of support measures is urgently required.”

Lockdown in Dublin will have knock-on effects on drinks and hospitality businesses elsewhere in the country as domestic tourists from the capital cancel their bookings in regional hotels, restaurants, and pubs.

“For many, the drinks and hospitality sector is a lifelong career. For others, like students, carers, homemakers and older people, the industry provides an invaluable degree of flexibility, allowing them to earn money part-time while still carrying out other duties and responsibilities,” said Mr Reid.

“For all, drinks and hospitality businesses are one of the few sectors in their locality where actual employment opportunities exist, the business where they first start to develop skills and qualities that stand to them forever. If these businesses close for good, many villages and towns will be left with little to no employment opportunities.”

DIGI is calling on the government to aid the drinks and hospitality industry by removing barriers to business and deliver a comprehensive and coordinated set of measures over the coming period to support their recovery.

“Reopening these businesses is not enough,” said Mr Reid. “We have to focus on recovery, which means making it as easy as possible to actually do business within Covid guidelines. Ireland’s pubs, hotels, restaurants and wider drinks and hospitality industry needs practical financial supports this year. As this report shows, intervention in 2021 will be too late and jobs will be lost.

“Ireland’s excise taxes are the second highest in Europe and will act as a further barrier to recovery. As part of a broad package of measures we are calling on the government to deliver a 15% reduction in excise tax on drinks to support the industry and minimise the risk of job losses. More money back in the business owner’s pocket means more money can be directly invested in keeping their doors open and saving their staff from unemployment.”

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