Sunday 20 October 2019

Our jobless figures are still among worst in EU

Sarah McCabe

IRELAND still has one of the highest long-term unemployment figures in the European Union, despite recent initiatives such as changes to the welfare system and more training opportunities for people looking for work.

About 62pc of Ireland's unemployed have been without a job for a year or more, far in excess of the EU average of 45pc. These people make up 9pc of the total Irish population.

Under other definitions, these statistics could be even more dramatic; the EU's approach towards measuring long-term unemployment is generous compared to that of the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, which defines it as 27 weeks or longer without a job.

Unemployment statistics also do not take account of those who emigrate in search of work.

Sweden is home to the top three regions with the smallest share of long-term unemployed people in the EU. In the Swedish region of Mellersta Norrland, just 15pc of unemployed people are without a job for longer than a year. French overseas territories Guadeloupe (80pc), Guyane (75pc) and Martinique (73pc) have the highest rates.

PROBLEM

One of the biggest problems associated with long-term unemployment is that it is self-perpetuating. People who are without a job for a long period are statistically less likely to find work; employers favour people with uninterrupted CVs and up-to-date skills.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has described tackling Ireland's unusually high rate as one of the toughest challenges the Government has to face.

His Government has introduced a series of measures to try and address the problem, including financial incentives for employers and the national internship scheme, Job Bridge.

It has also announced plans to allocate local council maintenance jobs to the long-term unemployed.

A special tax relief is also available to encourage Irish people who have not worked for a year or more to take up a job, on a decreasing scale over a three-year period.

Yet the EU-IMF troika has repeatedly criticised Ireland's approach to unemployment in its regular assessments of the country's economic health. In a recent review, it noted that "unemployment remains stubbornly high, and is increasingly long-term in nature. Reducing it must remain policy priority".

It said that the best the Government could hope for was a gradual reduction in unemployment and said this was being hindered by a mismatch between the skills of the unemployed and the jobs available.

It suggested designating more civil service staff to assisting unemployed people to secure jobs.

It also proposed that job-creation projects should be sped up and funded by a mix of the National Pension Reserve, private investment, the sale of a portion of state assets and some European Investment Bank finance.

Irish Independent

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