THE GOVERNMENT HAS been roundly criticised in the wake of the latest unemployment figures which show that 14.8 per cent or around 309,000 people are out of work in Ireland.
Unemployment in Ireland is now at its highest level since the financial crisis began while the number of those in work – 1,786,100 - is at its lowest since 2003 as there were calls for the government to do more to get people back in to work.
The figures also showed a significant rise in the number of people who are long-term unemployed – out of work for a year or longer – from 7.8 per cent to 8.9 per cent in the past year.
The Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME) called on the government to introduce a new jobs initiative to subsidise unemployment, address the lack of lending by banks and reform the social welfare system.
“The continuous increase in unemployment and in particular the long term unemployed clearly demonstrates that the Government’s job strategy is not working,” ISME chief Mark Fielding said. “Much more action is required on the jobs crisis to arrest the savage loss of jobs.”
The trade union SIPTU, said that the new statistics particularly on the long-term unemployed showed that investment was needed in order to get people back to work.
The union’s economist Marie Sherlock said: “Today’s figures confirm the enormity of the problem with over 60 per cent of those out of work being without a job for a year or longer.
“The figures also point to an even larger employment crisis than the headline figure of 14.8% of the workforce out of work suggests with a large jump in the numbers claiming to be in part-time work but under-employed.”
Another trade union, IMPACT, said that the government’s austerity policies were having a “disastrous impact on our society”.
“Without jobs there is no hope of recovery,” regional secretary Jimmy Kelly said, adding: “We either remain as slaves to the markets or we take a stand to say that jobs for workers in Ireland are the only way that we can escape this crisis.”
On the political front, Sinn Féin pointed out that the government was now in office for 450 days with TD Peadar Tóibín saying the latest figures are “a shocking indictment of a government which fought an election campaign and then a referendum campaign on the basis of jobs”.
Fianna Fáil’s Willie O’Dea focused on the government’s efforts to stimulate employment, saying that none of their initiatives so far had worked.
He said: “We have seen the government have three major attempts at stimulating job creation through the Jobs Initiative, the Action Plan on Jobs and the Budget.
“All of the efforts have failed to kick-start the domestic economy and in particular the VAT increase made matters worse and the banks are not lending enough to small businesses and are refusing to take any risk to help the domestic economy.