Tuesday, 14 March 1978
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Kelly: asked the Taoiseach (a) whether he accepts the current live register total as accurately reflecting the number of persons now out of work and seeking work; (b) whether he accepts the live register totals reported in the months of May and June 1977, as having accurately reflected the number of such persons at that time; (c) if not in either case, what number he would calculate for each period and in what way he would calculate it.
Mr. P. Lalor: With regard to the live register I think I can say that there is general acceptance that the live register total does not fully reflect the actual level of unemployment in the economy. For example, it does not include young persons looking for work for the first time or other unemployed persons who for various reasons are not applicants for unemployment benefit or unemployment assistance. In regard to the latter group, the proposal recently announced in the budget to relax the eligibility conditions for single women applicants for unemployment assistance, to be introduced next October, will of itself have the effect of increasing the register when it comes to reflect this extra element of unemployment not currently covered in the total.
The live register does however provide a regular and reasonably satisfactory indicator of the trend in the level of unemployment and it also makes it possible to compile a range of detailed tabulations—according to industries, regions, duration of registration and so on—which have proved to be of considerable use for the purposes of social and economic analysis.
An annual mid-April estimate of the number of persons “out of work” is prepared within the framework of the annual estimates of the total labour force. This is obtained by using the live register trends—excluding persons on systematic short-time working—to  update the most recent census of population totals for persons “out of work”. The classification of a person as “out of work” in a census is based mainly on the respondent's own assessment of his or her economic circumstances and does not depend on the receipt of unemployment benefit or unemployment assistance.
The most recent estimate for the number “out of work” on this basis is 108,000 for mid-April 1977. This does not include persons seeking work for the first time for which the most recent official estimate available is that of 20,000 given by the 1975 Labour Force Survey for May 1975. A corresponding estimate for 1977 will be available within a few months from the 1977 Labour Force Survey.
The whole question of unemployment statistics is under consideration by an interdepartmental study group. In particular the group is examining the question of formulating a measure of unemployment in labour force surveys which will more adequately reflect the level of unemployment in the community, taking into account a number of criteria, such as the availability for work and the search for work.
Mr. Kelly: When all that smoke has cleared away would the Minister tell us how many were unemployed in June last year and how many are unemployed and looking for work now? Would he make an estimate—his best estimate?
Mr. Kelly: Would the Minister accept that the figure of just over 112,000 reported yesterday evening is 3,000 more than were unemployed at the time of the last general election? There are, in fact, 3,000 more on the live register now than in mid-June 1977.
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