Wednesday 21 February 2018

Battle to reduce the dole queue rages on - and not just in Ireland

People queue for social welfare.
People queue for social welfare.
Click to see a bigger version of the graphic
Sarah Stack

Sarah Stack

LABOUR leader-in-waiting Joan Burton has come under scathing attack over Ireland's high unemployment rate.

It may be dropping steadily from record highs, but the minister for social protection remains under fire for not getting our young jobless and the long-term unemployed away from dole queues.

At the same time Ms Burton, heavily tipped to become the next leader of the Labour Party and tanaiste today, has been criticised for targeting some of the poorest in Ireland by cutting payments to 9,000 one parent families.

But when we compare ourselves to the rest of Europe, and particularly the other bailed-out states, we appear close to average.

Latest figures show more than a quarter of the workforce in Greece and Spain - 26.8pc and 25.1pc respectively - are out of work while the European average is 10.3pc and the eurozone average is 11.6pc.

The data - from May - recorded Ireland's rate was at 12pc, while more recent figures recorded by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) record a further drop to 11.6pc in June to 386,200.

But almost 100,000 claimants were on the Live Register for three years or more, accounting for just over a quarter of those surviving on benefits.

In the US, employment growth jumped in June and the jobless rate closed in on a six-year low falling to 6.1pc, its lowest level since September 2008.

Among the EU member states, the lowest unemployment rates were recorded in Austria (4.7pc), Germany (5.1pc) and Malta (5.7pc). At the top, behind Greece and Spain, was Croatia, Cyprus, Portugal, Slovakia and Italy. Then sits Ireland, trailing behind 20 other countries including Bulgaria and Romania.

Compared with a year ago, the unemployment rate fell in 21 counties, including Ireland, increased in six and remained stable in Austria. The largest decreases were registered in Hungary, which dropped from 10.5pc last year to 7.9pc in April, Portugal (16.9pc to 14.3pc) and here, which fell from 13.9pc.

Surprisingly, the largest increase was recorded in Luxembourg, where it jumped from 5.8pc to 6.3pc. Italy, Finland and the Netherlands also rose.

But it is the issue of youth unemployment - and emigration - that Ms Burton and other EU leaders will have to face and find ways to tackle.

In May almost 5.2 million people aged under 25 years - 22.2pc - were out of work across the 28 European counties. The rate was even higher in the euro area where 3.356 million under 25s - 23.3pc - are jobless.

Back home the rate was 23.7pc - that's more than 15pc of everyone on the dole. While it had dropped, that's been attributed to growing migration rates and controversial schemes like JobBridge that aim to get people back in work.

While the lowest rates were in Germany (7.8pc) and Austria (8.9pc), it soared in Greece and Spain, with more than half of young people on dole queues.

Irish Independent

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