Emigration, education help drive decrease in dole figures
EMIGRATION and education appear to be behind a fall in unemployment -- a decline that was driven by young people over the past year.
With more people going abroad in search of work or remaining on in further education, the numbers signing on have dipped by 2,295 in the year to 434,784 -- with a marked 8pc drop in youth unemployment -- new Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures reveal.
However, the Government was accused of a "hopeless and harmful" reliance on emigration instead of real policies to tackle joblessness.
Although unemployment rose marginally among people aged over 25, it fell by 8.5pc among those aged under 25 during 2011. Unemployment also fell faster among men and in the west, which is believed to be worst hit by emigration.
The Irish Independent revealed recently that around 70,000 people, mostly in their 20s, emigrated to the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US and Germany in the last year. Alan McQuaid, of Bloxham stockbrokers, said the improved Live Register figures were not down to better employment conditions at home. He said it was clear that emigration was continuing to play a big part in removing people from the Live Register.
"Many young Irish people are either staying on in or returning to education or moving abroad to avail of significant job opportunities in the likes of Australia and New Zealand," said Mr McQuaid.
The CSO Live Register figures show a marginal 0.1pc drop in the unemployment rate to 14.3pc, down from a high of 14.8pc a year ago.
Long-term unemployment increased by 16pc, with almost 181,000 people out of work for more than a year. However, the number of short-term claimants fell from 282,000 to 254,000.
More than 83,000 extra people have joined the ranks of the long-term unemployed in the past two years -- an improvement on the situation a year ago, when long-term unemployment was growing by a massive 56pc a year.
But the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed (INOU) warned that research showed the longer someone was unemployed, the harder it was to get back to work.
"Bigger and bolder measures are required and as a part of this it is essential that the social welfare system becomes more flexible and facilitates unemployed people to take up part-time and piecemeal work," said INOU spokesman Brid O'Brien.
Though the jobless rate is down from its peak of 14.8pc in 2010, the outlook is far from promising, said Ulster Bank Economist John Fahey.
"It looks as if the economy will not have enough momentum to make any meaningful inroads into the jobless rate this year and we expect the jobless rate to average over 14pc again in 2012," he said.
Mark Fielding, Irish Small and Medium Enterprises chief, added: "Targeting unemployment requires more than PR generated lip-service, a couple of training schemes and the 'hopeless and harmful' reliance on emigration to somehow weather the storm."