In its draft 7th review of Ireland the European Commission is ignoring the key issue that jobs are not being created on the scale required and that the bailout process is failing to address both the employment and unemployment problems. Ireland has a track record of people working if jobs are available. Five years ago there were only 28,000 people unemployed for more than a year but today it is more than 200,000. The vast majority of the long-term unemployed would take up a job if it existed yet the European Commission and the Government are focussed only on activation measures and penalising people for not taking up jobs, which in reality don’t exist.
Lack of jobs being ignored
Both the European Commission and Government fail to acknowledge the fact that a lack of jobs is causing the unemployment figures to remain alarmingly high, and that substantial measures are required immediately to address this issue. The bailout process is not delivering in terms of growth, jobs and recovery. In the latest draft review, growth projections are being revised downwards, and unemployment projections are being revised upwards. For unemployment to remain above 13% in 2015, as forecast by the European Commission is completely unacceptable. The strategy being pursued by the European Commission and Government is not working and immediate additional action is required to address long-term unemployment.
Social Justice Ireland supports the provision of activation programmes but without large numbers of additional jobs the activation will not solve the current crisis.
Part-Time Job Opportunities Programme
One of the proposals made by Social Justice Ireland is that Government create a Part-Time Job Opportunities Programme aimed at taking up to 100,000 long-term unemployed people off the live register over a three-year period. This approach was successfully piloted in six different parts of the country during Ireland’s last period of high unemployment (1994-98). This programme was mainstreamed by the Rainbow Coalition Government in 1997 and worked very well then and it has the potential to dramatically reduce the numbers long-term unemployed today.
The Part-Time Job Opportunities programme proposal presented to Government by Social Justice Ireland:
- Would create up to 100,000 part-time jobs for unemployed people;
- Paid at the going hourly rate for the job;
- Participants would work the number of hours required to earn the equivalent of their social welfare payment and a small top-up;
- Access would be on a voluntary basis only;
- Jobs would be created in the public sector and the community and voluntary sector;
- Participants would be remunerated principally through the reallocation of social welfare payments.
- Working on these jobs, participants would be allowed to take up other paid employment in their spare time without incurring loss of benefits and would be liable to tax in the normal way if their income was sufficient to bring them into the tax net.
Implementation of this programme would produce a triple-win situation: it would benefit those who were long-term unemployed and their families; it would benefit local communities and local services; and it would benefit economic development. It would also ensure that participants maintained their skills and were job-ready when the economy recovered. Developing programmes such as these would help unemployed people, which is in marked contrast to the scapegoating being engaged in by the troika.