Thursday 17 January 2019

'Spectacular' fall in number of unemployed here 'one of biggest drops in the world'

Skill shortages: Ben Westmore from the OECD
Skill shortages: Ben Westmore from the OECD

Anne-Marie Walsh

Ireland has enjoyed one of the biggest drops in unemployment in the developed world over the past five years.

A new international report reveals the country is among three nations where joblessness fell fastest after hitting a peak during the crash.

Following a February 2013 highpoint in unemployment in the euro area, the number of people out of work has fallen by 9.2pc here.

Meanwhile, the numbers are down 10.6pc in Portugal and 11.5pc in Spain, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

OECD spokesperson Spencer Wilson said Ireland was among three countries to experience the sharpest falls in unemployment across the 36 member states, as non-European members did not have high rates of joblessness to begin with.

However, the figures show the youth unemployment rate is close to 13pc - well above the average unemployment rate of 5.6pc - while 47pc of those on the dole are on it for more than a year.

The move towards full unemployment is bringing its own problems, particularly for businesses that are struggling to find workers.

Head of the OECD Economics Department's Ireland desk Ben Westmore said the marked reduction in the unemployment rate has coincided with improvements in other areas of economic growth.

"On a sectoral basis, employment growth has been particularly strong in the construction and hospitality sectors over the past year," he said.

"A key policy challenge now for the Government is to continue promoting supply of professionals in those professions that are highly demanded and where businesses are reporting labour shortages."

Ibec head of tax and fiscal policy Gerard Brady said the fall in Irish unemployment has been spectacular.

"In order to achieve our potential over the coming years we must tackle issues such as housing and childcare, which are making it harder to attract workers," he said.

Bríd O'Brien, of the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed (INOU), said that the overall picture has greatly improved - but joblessness among the young and long-term unemployed are still higher than Celtic Tiger levels.

"The headline figures are going in the right direction but for some people there are still difficulties getting a job, whether its their address or ethnicity," she said.

On the upside, Jim Hargis, of the Eastside and Docklands Local Employment Services in Dublin, said people who never worked before are now getting jobs. "We got an ex-con in his late 40s work on a construction site," he said. "It's very favourable in that field and the money is good, at €18 an hour."

Irish Independent

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