Tuesday 21 May 2019

Government’s jobs policy is not working, unions warn

Ed Carty

The latest rise in unemployment proves the Government's policy of cuts is not working, union leaders have warned.

Official figures showed the jobs crisis is deepening, with 440,947 people signing on the dole - taking the out-of-work rate up to 14.8pc.

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton, who is devising plans to bring business costs down, said proposed changes to pay rates for 200,000 low-paid workers and the top earners in legal and medical fields would be put before Cabinet in three weeks.

"There is an urgency now about making decisions in this crisis," the minister said.

"This is not something that's imposed upon us (by the International Monetary Fund-European Union deal) solely - that's not its origin.

"Now is the time to make the reforms and give business a chance to rebuild employment."

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions hit back and blamed the Government and Europe's demand for massive spending cuts for the worsening labour market.

Two areas of unemployment are causing severe concern, analysts have warned.

According to the Central Statistics Office Live Register for May, those signing on for a year or more - the long-term unemployed - has hit a new recession high of 176,300 following a 6,900 increase last month. The amount of under-25s on the dole grew by 1,552 last month, taking the total back to 81,000.

Paul Sweeney, Congress economic advisor, said huge cost-cutting budgets were not having the desired effect.

He added: "Deflation is simply not working and is leading directly to job losses.

"We have seen domestic demand crash by over 25pc in less than three years. That translates into thousands of job losses and thousands of families in very difficult circumstances."

"This is not the route to recovery, but leads precisely in the opposite direction.

"It is time that the authorities at the EU level and here at home stopped taking counsel from the advocates of austerity. It doesn't work. Today's figures are proof positive."

The Irish Small & Medium Enterprises Association called for the Government to make what it called early tough decisions on archaic employment orders, the social welfare trap and rising business costs.

Chief executive Mark Fielding said: "The perception among business people is that this Government is striving to remain 'popular' rather than making the real and hard decisions which will bring the country back from the brink."

Siptu general president Jack O'Connor accused the business lobby group of cynical exploitation of the out-of-work to benefit employers.

"Far from alleviating unemployment, cutting the pay of the lowest-paid 20pc of the workforce is the very last thing the country needs because it will only serve to further depress consumer demand resulting in the loss of more jobs," he said.

"Populist play-acting to the business gallery will contribute nothing."

He called for the Government to lift the threat of home repossessions while attracting pension fund investment to generate jobs in utilities and create new businesses.

"It is past time for those of us in positions of leadership to stop pandering to our respective constituencies and develop serious imaginative policy responses equal to the scale of the catastrophe unfolding around us," the union chief said.

Youth Work Ireland spokesman Michael McLoughlin warned that ignoring a need for a dedicated approach to the crisis could do enormous long-term damage to Ireland and its economy.

"We all know unemployment is the number one issue in Irish society today but youth unemployment needs special attention as nobody wants to see a whole generation cast aside during this recession," he said.

"We also need to see young people as a resource, for example in starting new smart-tech companies in new economic areas."

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