Twin-track approach required to have significant impact on reducing long-term unemployment

Posted on Wednesday, 1 June 2011

As unemployment reaches its highest point in 2011 Government requires a twin-track strategy – one track focused on job-creation and the other track focused on creating real meaningful work opportunities for people who are long-term unemployed.  Social Justice Ireland believes that while initiatives focused on improving job creation and protecting jobs that already exist are very welcome and necessary, they should not be allowed to create an illusion that Ireland’s unemployment crisis will be resolved in the period immediately ahead. 

The transition from near full employment to high unemployment has been a significant and shameful story in the current recession, a story that has huge negative implications for a great many people who want to work but find themselves long-term unemployed through no fault of their own.  Action is urgently required to change this situation.  The Government’s Jobs Initiative is a first step but a very long road stretches out ahead.

Social Justice Ireland has presented proposals to Government which would create 100,000 part-time jobs for long-term unemployed people over a three-year period. This programme was successfully piloted in six different parts of the country during Ireland’s last period of major unemployment (1994-98).  It was mainstreamed in 1997 by Government. The Minister responsible for that mainstreaming was Mr Richard Bruton and his Minister of State was Pat Rabbitte TD.

The standardised unemployment rate in May 2011 was 14.8%, up slightly from a rate of 14.7% in April according to the Central Statistics Office figures published today. The monthly increase in the standardised unemployment rate was caused by an increase of 2,600 (+0.6%) in the seasonally adjusted number of persons signing on the Live Register. The latest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate from the Quarterly National Household Survey was 14.7% in the fourth quarter of 2010. The average unemployment rate during 2010 was 13.6%.

The proposed Part-Time Job Opportunities programme:

  • Would create 100,000 part-time jobs for unemployed people;
  • Paid at the going hourly rate for the job;
  • Participants working the number of hours required to earn the equivalent of their so! cial welfare payment and a small top-up;
  • Up to a maximum of 19.5 hours a week.
  • 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.

Social Justice Ireland strongly urges Government to take initiatives along the lines of this proposal which would have the scale to make a major difference to the lives of one of Ireland’s most vulnerable groups i.e. the long-term unemployed.

Social Justice Ireland’s most recent Policy Briefing addresses the issues of Work, Jobs and Unemployment and may be accessed here.

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) publication on the Live Register published June 1, 2011 may be downloaded below.