JobBridge: Did it actually work?

By Gemma Kavanagh

Last month Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar announced that he is going to get rid of the controversial JobBridge scheme and replace it with a different initiative.

Mr Varadkar said that while a major report on JobBridge found most participants had a positive experience, the scheme had been abused by some employers.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr. Varadkar said: “The … report shows that JobBridge has helped around two thirds of participants, some 38,000 unemployed people from all age groups, to re-enter the jobs market. Although it was far from perfect, it was a real success.”

JobBridge was launched in 2011 at the height of the economic crash as an initiative to get people back to work. Those who took part got an extra €50 in social welfare payments.

However, the programme was heavily criticised and faced accusations that young people were exploited by some employers.  It was recommended that a new programme with a stronger focus on skills, paying at least the minimum wage, and focusing on those unemployed for at least six months be introduced.

Indecon International Research Economists in association with London Economics surveyed 10,500 participants and undertook a detailed analysis of employment outcomes, by comparing JobBridge participants to a matched group of non-participants.

It found that JobBridge had a positive impact of 12% on the participants’ likelihood of finding a job after the internship.

Overall, 79% of participants have found a job of some kind since coming out of the programme with 64% of people still working and 10% of them in further education.



Employed with JobBridge Host Organisation 26.7%
Employed with another organisation 12.8%
Employed in another sector 24.7%
Was employed on a short-term  contract, which has now ended 3.9%
Pursuing further education or training 6.4%
Participating in other scheme 6%
Unemployed (in receipt of a Jobseekers payment) 17.7%
Have emigrated 3.4%

Deputy Joan Burton was one of the initiators of the JobBridge scheme when she was Minister for Social Protection. Asked how she felt about it being scrapped and whether the scheme could have been improved, she described it as a product of its time.

“From 2008 to 2012 I kept meeting students who couldn’t get jobs and people who were highly qualified but couldn’t get a job. Employers had stopped hiring, they couldn’t afford it. When I became Minister for Social Protection, if you took on voluntary work experience you lost your social welfare. The purpose of JobBridge was to let somebody to take work experience for a little bit [of] extra money and to keep their social welfare.


“I meet a huge amount of people who benefitted from it, it helped people go back to college and do their Masters and get an internship with a big company and almost all were kept on full time.”

Coming from a working class background Joan Burton spoke about the importance of everyone being able to get a job, being financially independent and having good educational opportunities. “That’s my creed, our system is based on trying to create opportunities for people.” 


Of the people who took part in JobBridge:

  • 70.2% of respondents said that the internship gave them new job skills.
  • 18% of interns did not feel the scheme had provided them with new job skills.
  • 70% said the scheme had provided an opportunity to gain quality work experience.




51.5% of respondents stated that they were very satisfied with the work performance and engagement of the intern during the internship. All of the payments to interns were funded by the Exchequer, despite the benefits which host organisations obtained. And even though host organisations did incur costs through participating in JobBridge, they also secured benefits from their participation in the initiative.


Participants of the scheme were of all ages but most of the interns were between 25 and 34 and they made up 42.16% of the scheme. Nearly 25% of interns were between 20 and 24 and over 30% of interns were 35 years or older.


Age Band No. of Participants* % of Participants
15 to 19 1,105 2.74%
20 to 24 10,034 24.86%
25 to 34 17,020 42.16%
35 to 44 7,287 18.05%
45 to 54 3,774 9.35%
55 and over 1,147 2.84%

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