Private Members' Business. - Youth Training and Employment Schemes: Motion.

Tuesday, 7 May 1985

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 358 No. 1

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Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I move:

That Dáil Éireann calls on the [261] Government to rationalise and co-ordinate the multiplicity of different schemes of youth training and employment by the different Government Departments and agencies in order to concentrate on the provision of permanent sustainable employment for the greatest possible number of our young people.

My reason for putting down this motion is not primarily to attack the Minister for Labour but to put forward constructive suggestions that are in his own interest to make a major achievement in the area of youth training and employment. In addition, we believe this motion reflects the thinking of the workforce, the people involved in the various agencies and those who are on the lists for training schemes. Rather than being destructive or critical, we think that the debate on this motion will strengthen the Minister's hand in implementing fairly radical proposals.

I wish to state that I am not in any way critical of any of the semi-State bodies involved. Here we are talking mainly about the National Manpower Service which is under the aegis of the Department of Labour, of AnCO, CERT, the Youth Employment Agency and the various bodies that have been set up in the past 20 years. Despite all the changes in that time the last White Paper on manpower was published in 1965 when Seán Lemass was Taoiseach. Incidentally, that White Paper was about two-and-a-half pages in length. Perhaps we should go back to the days when White Papers were short and snappy and to the point, rather then the huge monologues issued by various Governments and which are filed away in libraries in Government Departments and in semi-State bodies with nothing happening in connection with them.

In the 1965 White Paper, Seán Lemass set out clearly what was needed to deal with the new jobs that would then become available. At that time we needed training agencies and manpower authorities so that it would be easier for employers to get employees when they were needed. Members of the House will [262] appreciate how ridiculous that concept is today. We have 234,000 registered unemployed, but 14,000 are not on the register because of their parents' circumstances, probably about 30,000 have emigrated and approximately 20,000 people are on various courses. Probably there are at least 300,000 unemployed at present.

We ask the Minister as a matter of urgency to bring in a new manpower policy, to standardise existing agencies and to create sustainable jobs for our young people. We understand that at least 60,000 young people come on the register each year and that the opportunities are not easy to find. Money from the European Social Employment Scheme is helping us to fund the various schemes but it will not provide jobs that have any kind of future. The Minister need not be embarrassed because what has been happening in this regard is not his fault but the point must be made that during the years numerous schemes and bright ideas have been put before each Minister and they have accumulated to a considerable extent. We have work experience programmes, enterprise allowance schemes, employment incentive schemes, teamwork schemes, community youth training programmes, community enterprise programmes, youth self-employment programmes, young scientists and technological employment schemes, marketplace schemes, national co-operative farm relief services, environmental work schemes, various-schemes involving the Departments of Education and the Environment, external training division schemes, enterprise programmes schemes, business programme schemes, career development programmes, equal opportunity programmes, link programmes, comtec programmes, enterprise product development programmes, programmes dealing with starting one's business, youth enterprise programmes and many more. All of these are schemes or courses introduced by people at different times, sometimes to get a Minister off the hook, to try to keep the young unemployed at bay or to create peace among the workforce. However, the end result is that hundreds [263] of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money have been spent with few jobs obtained.

I have a good relationship with the semi-State bodies. They are all courteous to me as an Opposition spokesman. I realise they can say that so many people did certain courses and were successful. The fact is that in the three years of the Government's plan there will be an increase of only 20,000 jobs. It is proposed to accommodate about 8,000 people on pre-retirement courses but many of the jobs envisaged by the Government in their plan will never materialise.

The Minister has told us that the social employment scheme will give 10,000 jobs but that scheme has not got off the ground. There are reasons for that: perhaps they are with regard to the trade unions or in respect of the manpower aspect but, for one reason or another, only a handful of jobs have materialised. This scheme was announced in October, it was launched in February but now in summer the jobs have not been provided.

The annual report of AnCO with regard to apprentices sets out the major difficulties with regard to the various schemes. Team work is only another name for another scheme. The Youth Employment Agency are passing themselves out with new schemes, nice reports and glossy documents but very few jobs. If all the people on training courses were taken off those courses and registered as unemployed, I realise the impact that would have on the Government and the little benefit that would be to the community. In the training centres there are 11,740 people in various community, youth and workshop schemes. CERT have almost 2,000 people and the YEA several thousand people on courses.

I notice that the Minister's amendment contends that further improvements are necessary. We contend that rather is there needed a radical overhaul of the system with the abolition of the present structures which have outlived their usefulness. There is no room within the present structure for seven or eight different organisations. We do not need an [264] AnCO, Manpower, Youth Employment Agency, with grants being given to the IMI, the IPA, all of whom go their separate ways in competition with one another. I might give one example of that type of competition. There was the link programme established in 1982 by AnCO, if not replaced, then superseded by COMTEC, one of the courses mentioned in the national plan.

I notice from my reading of Focus magazines that pilot schemes will be established in Laois, Offaly and parts of Sligo, the areas in which AnCO have just completed schemes under that link programme. That amounts to massive duplication. I accept, appreciate and welcome the schemes in Tallaght, Donaghmede, Cork, Monaghan and Waterford. Because there is so much money involved in these schemes, because of competition at board and management level their functions are duplicated. No matter how one defines it the link scheme amounts to the same thing as COMTEC. If a major course has been conducted under the link programme in a given area then what is COMTEC doing in the same area? I do not ask the Minister to defend that decision because he did not take it, but who-ever did should be asked to answer for it because it constitutes wastage of money. All of my colleagues interested in this debate, all members of the parliamentary party, will be able to cite similar examples of duplication of these schemes and their failure. They are conducted in the interests of the people who conduct them rather than those who should benefit from them.

I welcome anything that assists training and affords people an opportunity to work, but I am totally against the multiplicity of organisations obtaining. We recently set out our views, stating that we felt it was necessary for the Minister for Labour to take control of the overall position. We recommended that there be one semi-State body, one agency or manpower authority to take over the functions of all of these organisations, with one board, the present agencies [265] forming part of that body so that policy decisions would be formed at one level.

I have heard rumours that the Minister, in his various discussion documents furnished to various agencies, is recommending perhaps a piecemeal amalgamation. I do not believe that would be satisfactory. I do not think four chief executive officers are necessary to deal with the same problem. We do not need people sitting at board or committee level in various organisations around this city and country dealing with the same problem. Rather there should be people with the necessary expertise on the one board dealing with the overall question. One single manpower authority linked to the Minister's Department would give the Minister the necessary control in order to ensure that the money we vote for the Department of Labour is properly utilised.

From the point of view of the ordinary citizen Manpower is totally disorganised. They send out standard type letters and, when people call into them, they can render no service. Only recently did they receive money from the Youth Employment Agency to computerise their operations. We want to see people on the live register entitled to services and schemes, to be able to acquire training where necessary, and that that be done in a practical, uniform way. At present a person wishing to undergo a course who goes into a Manpower office is not met with a great degree of courtesy because the workforce are too busy. If people wish to register for various courses they must go to CERT offices at one end of town, then to the Youth Employment Agency and, even within that agency, they may have to go to various other bodies. The Minister need not nod his head. I have tried it myself and they did not recognise me. I will tell the Minister how discourteous is the treatment meted out to people and, if necessary, I will name the officials concerned. I checked it out in detail following numerous complaints from constitutents. I would ask the Minister not to defend them. When one goes into the Manpower office forms [266] are filled in which effectively mean nothing. They just do not have the necessary resources at their disposal and they are not computerised. If one wishes to undergo an AnCo course one must then go off to register with AnCo. There is no co-ordinated approach. As high as is employment generally there are now plenty of schemes obtaining in Europe and across the water whereby one computerised system can take on or deal with 250,000 unemployed people with their full records. If I or anybody else walks into a Manpower office we should be interviewed in a courteous way, in proper surroundings, being given all the details of the courses we want to undergo. If there is no solution other than going to the unemployment office then it should be sited nearby. Parallel with that, a person should be placed on the register for, say, AnCO or CERT courses, the enterprise allowance scheme or whatever schemes in which one may be interested. Straight away they should be furnished with the necessary documentation rather than go through the present long process in order to reach a stage of being declared unemployed and placed on the lists of the various agencies.

The simplest way of co-ordinating all of this is through one major outside computerised agency within the system and under the aegis of the Minister's Department. I was amused to note the first attempt, the letter issued to all unemployed people stating that if one was still unemployed and did not fill in this form, one's name would be removed from the register, which amounts to a gross insult. Anybody unemployed would just take off or go crazy if he had not already gone that way. It demonstrates the lack of feeling and vision of the people who run that organisation. I have spoken to Mr. Hannan and his staff and I understand the pressures to which they are subjected. That is why I believe the present system cannot be improved, that it must be scrapped and restarted.

These organisations have outlived their usefulness and the position has now reverted to that of a manpower policy as obtained in 1965. It should be clearly set [267] out for the ordinary unemployed person what they can do, that they register with an organisation or, if they must go on the dole, then they must or, if they wish to undergo a course, they are automatically registered for it so that they know exactly where they stand. Last year I understand that AnCo had approximately 70,000 people who applied for training courses, many of whom did not know for what they were applying. They were merely furnished with all the various colourful brochures and forms emanating from the various PR companies who tell young people what they should or should not not do. This should all be explained by one well paid official with the necessary expertise initially, that, for example, the guarantee system means one thing, team work means another, AnCo training schemes something else, cutting out all of the red tape, annoyance and frustration, driving all unemployed, but particularly young people who perhaps do not understand the system so well, crazy. The Minister could take that action speedily with trade union support. Certainly taxpayers and the unemployed would welcome such action.

On the positive side, if the system was properly computerised, the present organisations being abolished and forced to recommence, a number of schemes that would afford real jobs would then come to the fore. It is being contended worldwide, but particularly in the United States, that jobs are arising now in small industries or organisations. For example, over 60 per cent of the last 30 million jobs created in the United States have been in industries with fewer than 20 people. There is too much money going into big industries here, too much interest being shown in high technology, too much money being invested in order to prop up the large semi-State organisations, to attract the multinationals, with little or nothing being done for the small business or industry. Any manpower authority can do certain things only, can participate in the creation of jobs but cannot solve the overall unemployment position.

The Minister and Members of this [268] House will agree that Building on Reality set out to do four things in relation to employment. It set out to ensure that a climate for employment creation was fostered through various policies including tax incentives. That has not been done. It set out to reduce the legal and institutional regulations that hamper employment creation. It was to tackle the need for greater efficiency in the public service and it was to introduce special measures for school leavers and the long term unemployed. A streamlined manpower authority with the IDA, CTT and other organisations working under the one umbrella would be better able to help young people. At the moment the services are fragmented and the IDA and CTT run away from helping the small businessman and the person who has just been made redundant but who could use 30 years experience in building up a small industry. While I do not ask the Minister to provide 200,000 jobs I would ask him to provide a streamlined manpower authority. There should be training schemes which would help to create jobs. We should not have schemes to teach girls to type, for instance, when they have learned how to type the previous year at school. A girl will not get a job at that. These people should be encouraged to work in a low paying small company which is trying to get off the ground. Liffey Trust, a private concern receiving assistance from the Department of Labour, have shown how this could be successful. Its success in the long term, for a number of reasons, is questionable, but it has shown the success of the idea of setting up a co-operative involving five or six people. In such a scheme people will not be working in a course which ends in June but will be working to create employment and a future for themselves. The money should go into that sort of scheme.

I supported the social employment scheme giving £70 for 2½ days work a week and will continue to support it until we get something else. However, at the end of the day, that will not create one additional job. It is a bit like the environmental scheme that we started in 1977 [269] and which was opposed by the then Opposition.

It annoys me that high technology industry can come in here at a cost of £80,000 per job, and their system might be out of date before the company has got off the ground. These are capital intensive companies and they might never deliver the numbers of jobs promised. At the same time people who were made redundant, with years of experience and the ability and initiative to set up their own companies, are being refused help by organisations which are supposed to be geared to help such people. If the banks, the IDA, CTT or anyone else are asked to vouch for their credibility and to provide £20,000 to get them off the ground, they will send enough letters to plaster the walls of this House saying that the proposed scheme is slightly outside of their guidelines. When it comes to one big company all the regulations are set aside, Ministers drop everything because this is an opportunity to bring a new industry which might some day provide 1,000 jobs. When a big American firm finds the world market collapsing and they need to close down a subsidiary they close down the business in Mayo, Limerick or wherever, leaving the people high and dry. If this money were invested in the small companies, as is done in America, it would create more jobs in the long term.

I would ask the Minister seriously to consider our motion. Because of the system in the House the Minister probably feels he must oppose it. The Minister should call in these agencies and should establish one streamlined organisation answerable to the Department of Labour and to the people. Three years ago when I spoke on the Youth Employment Agency Bill I said it was just another organisation and the answer to that was that the Youth Employment Agency needed a Bill so that it could handle the levy.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  The Deputy has three minutes left.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  All the organisations set up to handle employment were very [270] handy for appointing boards of directors, and everybody might have appointed boards, but there should be just one big board with about 50 people who might do some work.

The national plan tells us that in the next three years there will be 20,000 jobs approved while over £200 million has been spent on schemes of one kind or another. It is a sad joke. During this debate the Minister will hear a number of examples illustrating why this scheme is inoperable and illustrating that the present Manpower service is of no use to the unemployed. We should go back to the drawing board and set up one body working with the Department of Labour and representative of the present organisations to deal effectively with every case and eliminate duplication. The Government should act quickly in the interests of the 80,000 people under 25 and the other 150,000 people who are unemployed. The Government should do something to stop emigration, to help young people and to give people a future. People are disillusioned with the system, but the system can be radically changed.

Mr. Kitt: Information on Michael P. Kitt  Zoom on Michael P. Kitt  I welcome the opportunity to support the motion proposed by Deputy Ahern. He touched on the basis of our argument when he referred to duplication and the confusion about the multiplicity of schemes for youth training and employment. I should like to give the Minister an example of how the various schemes are operating and the difficulties people experience when trying to get assistance under them. A farmer in my constituency sought assistance to set his two sons up in a horticultural business. As a good farmer he was able to supply the necessary raw material but he found if frustrating being sent from National Manpower to the YEA. Those people were told that they did not qualify for the enterprise allowance scheme. In fact, the only assistance they got was from the county development team. That organisation was in a position to give them a small amount of help. In many counties organisations like county development teams help out such applicants. We [271] should be helping people to develop our natural resources, particularly at a time when there is such a high level of importing of horticultural produce.

While the many agencies involved are doing a good job it is my belief that they are confused. There is a problem of who does what and a fear that funding will be diverted from one to another. They feel threatened by other agencies. It is time that we had an integrated policy administered by one central agency. I should like to refer to the vocational training and preparation course run by second level schools. Under that scheme students are literally being paid to go to school. They are paid £30 per month for ten months. It is pocket money paid to them to go to school. One teacher told me that 40 of his students were taking part in that course. He told me that if the administrator of the course was paid £12,000 he would have been able to do something worthwhile for the students. The Minister is aware that schools do not have electricians or painters on their staff but an administrator of such a course could be given permission to bring in such specialists to give lectures on their work to the students. It should be possible also to bring in people with a specialised knowledge of horticulture. Instead of giving £30 per week pocket money to students the Minister should consider giving permission to the administrator to organise the course in a flexible way to suit the needs of students in the area. Problems arise also because the conditions state that there must be 20 students for the course. Another problem arises where there is a mixed class because it is not possible to have the same course for all students.

We regret that the social employment scheme did not get off the ground. When it was introduced last October we were told that local authorities, health boards and tourism organisations would be able to get involved but my information is that only one local authority have had a scheme sanctioned. Most local authorities have submitted schemes to National Manpower but that is as far as they have [272] gone. I should like to compliment the Minister on the way he tried to promote the scheme and I should like to express my regret at not being able to attend the conference he held in Galway. Galway County Council submitted two lists of schemes to National Manpower but because “difficulties” with unions not one scheme has got off the ground. We do not know if any scheme will be approved in time to come. It is sad, having waited so long, that the schemes have not been sorted out.

The youth employment scheme which has been in operation for some time has run into a lot of difficulty because of the question of insurance. It is about time that the Department provided block insurance cover for employers involved in those programmes. I have tabled a question to the Minister about the matter and I understand he is examining the possibility of introducing such insurance cover. In his contribution I hope the Minister will tell the House if the insurance problem can be overcome. Very high quotations have been given to committees anxious to get work done under this scheme. In fact, I read in last week's issue of the Connaught Tribune of an ambitious committee who are not able to get a quotation although a broker sought quotations from five companies for the first stage of a scheme at Monivera, Athenry. I understand that the Department are examining the matter.

The money collected under the youth employment levy should be put to better use. The fact that £84 million was collected in 1984 is an indication of the colossal sum that is available. Local authorities are starved of funds. I am not making that statement because local elections are pending, but we are all aware of how many local authorities are short of money. Some of the money I have referred to should be diverted to local authorities to help carry them carry out work on county roads which are in a dreadful state. The money received from the Department is earmarked for arterial roads and national primary and secondary roads.

I wonder why some of the money is [273] not devoted to drainage schemes. Such schemes have been held up in the west since 1982. It appears that the Minister for Agriculture is not able to get money from the EC for such training schemes. It is worth noting that the only part of the country where a drainage scheme is not in operation is the west. Money collected under the levy should be used for that purpose. We want permanent jobs for our young people. I must point out that many projects in the west have been suspended. In my constituency a peat briquette factory remains half built. If that project was completed there would be many permanent sustainable jobs. While that factory remains unfinished we have confusion about various schemes and a lot of duplication. I hope the Minister will rationalise those schemes.

Minister for Labour (Mr. Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I move amendment No. 1.

To delete all words after “That” and substitute the following:

“Dáil Éireann notes the action already taken by the Government to improve the co-ordination of services in the area of youth employment and training and looks forward to further improvements in the context of the development of manpower policy.”

Let me start by welcoming the spirit that has animated the contribution of the spokesman for the Fianna Fáil Party, Deputy Ahern, and his colleague, Deputy Kitt. The tone in which they opened up this debate and their frankness and knowledge of the subject underlines a commitment that is shared on both sides of the House. Deputy Ahern was talking about something that clearly he knows something about which goes back beyond a number of different administrations. I welcome the positive way in which this debate has started. Let me, in the same mood, try to respond.

It has been clear to me since coming into the Department and to some people before that that we had a need to rationalise and co-ordinate matters in the manpower area for a couple of reasons. When [274] the manpower White Paper was published in 1965——

Mr. Flynn: Information on Pádraig Flynn  Zoom on Pádraig Flynn  Is there a script?

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I am responding in the spirit of frankness that Deputy Ahern displayed. No, there will not be a script.

Mr. Flynn: Information on Pádraig Flynn  Zoom on Pádraig Flynn  It would be helpful to us if we are to make a response to the Minister tomorrow night if there is a script.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I have taken notes. I want to deal with the question of the White Paper first of all. It is about 20 years since we had one White Paper on manpower policy. This year we will have a White Paper on manpower policy, as Deputy Ahern knows. The framework within which that White Paper has to operate has changed totally, virtually 180º. In 1965 we were anticipating industrialisation and a shortage of certain industrial skills and it was a question of gearing up in anticipation of jobs that we hoped would be attracted into the economy and which in many cases were so attracted. To use the phrase of a specialist, we had a demand-led problem. Today, for reasons that are self-evident and known to all Deputies on all sides of the House, the situation has changed totally. We have a rapidly growing labour force and large numbers of skilled personnel already. It is a question of fine-tuning the skills that they have and targeting them into areas that will provide employment. Therefore, it is a supply-led problem rather than a demand-led problem. Over the 20 years we have been largely successful on manpower policy in our industrial and economic growth, and I say this in tribute to previous office holders in different administrations. Whatever other constraints there have been on employment and industrial development, they have not come from lack of a skilled or trained workforce. To that extent we should pay tribute to the people who helped to bring that situation about.

The situation now is quite different from what it was then and, therefore, the White Paper on manpower policy, which [275] will follow the kind of format and brevity referred to by Deputy Ahern, will be a series of proposals and decisions with an appendix of argument outlining why we arrived at those decisions; in essence it will be a series of decisions. Before the end of this year this House will have an opportunity to debate that. In the meantime there is a clear need to improve the delivery of the various schemes that exist at present. Because there are a large number of schemes and because some of those schemes appear to be and in some cases are doing similar if not parallel types of work, it does not mean automatically that that duplication is wasteful or that it is really duplication. It is possible to have different schemes at different times doing similar things for different reasons.

There are two problems essentially. The first is ensuring that the transition from school to work is made as efficient and as effective as possible to ensure that the maximum number, if not 100 per cent, of young people leaving school get an offer of a job. The statistics in this area based on labour force surveys and surveys of young school leavers are much more optimistic and beneficial to the community at large than people realise. As public representatives we know that the general perception is, “What is the point of studying for the leaving certificate when there are no jobs out there?”. The statistics, which I can make available to Members of the House, show that 69 per cent of young people leaving school get a job within 12 months. They may not get the job they want or, more to the point, that their parents would like them to have, but they get a job. In many respects the level of take-up for young people leaving the educational system is better now than it has been for some years. My colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Birmingham, since it is his area of responsibility, will be able to give more information to the House when he speaks on this area. The one thing that is coming through in all of the surveys and all the evidence both practically on the ground and from scientific surveys is that [276] the lower the level of end education a person has coming out of the system the lower his prospects are of getting a job. Therefore, there is a problem in ensuring that the transition from school to work is properly looked after and that young people who come out with poor or no educational qualifications are, firstly identified, secondly, assessed and, thirdly, brought into a training system that will in some cases perhaps make good components in their education that for whatever reason they were not able to get in school. As working politicians we are familiar with this complex area.

When I was appointed Minister for Labour just over 15 months ago, simultaneously the Minister of State at the Department of Labour was given the additional responsibility as Minister of State at the Department of Education of producing a co-ordination report. I am pleased to say that that has been completed and in his contribution he will outline many of the findings contained within it. Allegations which brought about that appointment, some of them in very outrageous terms and not in the manner that we heard this evening, were claims that there was massive waste and massive duplication. After the detailed work, the meetings of the various committees and the reports, very little quantifiable evidence of such duplication and waste emerged, and it was not for the want of looking. The reality as we found it, based on the interviews and so on, was different from this perception that existed. However, it found the absolute need for a change in the way the system works, and that will come and we will be bringing it about. I will leave the rest of the outline of that part to the Minister of State and he will add it to whatever else he wants to say.

The second problems relate to, “Why so many schemes?” It is because there are different funding arrangements for schemes catering for the under 25s and those catering for the over 25s. Funding comes in the main from the European Social Fund, so schemes must be targeted in order to qualify for the ESF. I hesitate now, because I want to be sure that there [277] is nobody in the Distinguished Visitors' Gallery, before I say that this country is the best in the EC at maximising the take to which we would be entitled out of the ESF. The people opposite will be aware of that. This year we will get 13 per cent of the ESF largely because schemes have been designed and tailored in such a way as to maximise their eligibility for grant aid assistance from the ESF. That is in part a contributing fact to the number of schemes, but the under and over 25 is a critical component. The whole question of eligibility for qualification for aid from the ESF is complex and requires a great deal of attention, which fortunately we have been able to give, at official and administrative level in the Department of Labour, and I compliment them on the way in which they have been able to increase from 11 per cent last year to 13 per cent this year.

The third reason why there are different schemes is that we have the perception of a youth employment problem and in response to that the Fianna Fáil Government in 1977 established the work experience programme and the employment incentive scheme which we kept on and revised and amended in some ways in the light of experience. We then set up the Youth Employment Agency. While youth employment is still a problem at an unacceptably high level, it is now being turned around. We have the highest percentage of young people in the labour force in any EC country and we have the lowest level of unemployment for young people, despite the fact that our level of unemployment overall is the highest in the EC. That did not come about by accident. There have been a series of interventions. They are not on the live register. They are in training programmes, in placement, and many of them get jobs as a result. That investment, through the youth employment levy, the YEA and all other related bodies, has paid off to the effect that we can measure it relative to other countries in that it has been successful. We have a long road to travel because we still have an unacceptably high level of youth unemployment. I do not want to give the impression to the [278] House that we have solved that problem because we have not, but to a certain extent we have got on top of it and we are dealing with it better now than we were three or four years ago.

The centre of gravity of employment, as distinct from the transition from school to work, has shifted not just in this country but in all the other EC member states to that category known as the long term unemployed, that is somebody who has been unemployed for more than a year. Three years ago in Europe just under six million were unemployed; today there are just under 14 million unemployed and over one-third of them have been unemployed for more than a year. We have had to design schemes to meet their needs because by definition the long term unemployed are people in their twenties or older and have different kinds of needs and respond to different kinds of work. That is another reason why we have these schemes.

This is an area of considerable concern. This was one of the reasons why we introduced the social employment scheme — which was specifically designed for the over 25s. It was announced in October as part of the national plan, was due to come into effect from 1 January and Deputies are correct when they say that we have been slow in getting it off the ground. This has particularly perturbed us in the Department and we are now moving out of some of the problems that arose. For example, one of the problems was insurance for voluntary bodies trying to get public liability and employment cover for ten, 15 or 20 extra people they might take on. This fact emerged when we were trying to find out why the take-up was so slow. We are dealing with this problem very much along the lines Deputy Kitt suggested, because this is the sensible way to do it — lump all your purchasing power in the marketplace, buy insurance at a discount rate, apply it across the board and the legal responsibilities of the sponsor employer voluntary organisation are met in an efficient way. That is what we are doing on that front.

I was most interested in a point raised [279] by Deputy Ahern because we are working on this, and that is the contact the unemployed or the young person has with the various agencies trying to help him. We can sit with our documents, schemes and know all about them, because that is our job, but from the point of view of the young person or the parent of a young person, there seems to be a wide range of different schemes run by different bodies and different groups. We recognise that, having set up the Youth Employment Agency. The National Manpower Service are being modernised and computerised. Many of the points raised by the Opposition we have anticipated by over nine months. The difficulty in getting computerisation into an organisation like the National Manpower Service is that at present they are put to the pin of their collar to deliver a service in terms of placement and at the same time trying to computerise a register of approximately 250,000 people. In many cases that register is not up to date because people who apply to NMS and get a job do not necessarily come back and tell them they got that job. This means that NMS can write to ten or 20 people some of whom may have a job and they may not bother to reply. I am pleased to say that one of the first things I did when coming into office as Minister for Labour was to appoint a director to the National Manpower Service and we are changing and improving that area.

I would like to pay tribute to the work the NMS have done to date, while in no way recognising the validity of much of what Deputy Ahern said. For example, the employment enterprise allowance scheme enables somebody who has been unemployed for 13 weeks or more to get assistance for 52 weeks at the rate of either £30 or £50, depending on marital status, to set up business on his own. There are now 5,400 people on that scheme and the drop-out rate — the number of people who have gone back on unemployment assistance after 52 weeks — is, from memory, of the order of 700. The sustained success rate looks [280] pretty high. The rate of uptake by comparison with the United Kingdom is much higher as a percentage of the labour force. There are more people here prepared to set up in business than appears to be the case in the United Kingdom. That scheme has been run very efficiently at local level by the NMS, the placement officers, because in all cases it has involved sitting down with people, talking and counselling them and providing them with assistance to set up a business of their own.

As regards the work experience programme, in 1982 there were 8,500 people involved and last year there were 12,000. Figures are published in the first annual report of the Department of Labour and I will not take up the time of the House by reading them into the record.

The thrust of this motion is one which in principle we welcome and accept but what we are trying to say in our amendment is that we are not starting from scratch because we have anticipated some of Fianna Fáil's proposals and have taken some action. I would be happier if we had taken more action or if the pace had not been so slow. I am looking at three office holders on the Fianna Fáil Front Bench and they will accept that things do not move as fast as we would like.

Mr. Flynn: Information on Pádraig Flynn  Zoom on Pádraig Flynn  That is a fair mouthful.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I accept the validity of the Opposition's task. It is their job to ensure that we move faster than we have been moving and I accept that and welcome this debate. But what is the solution? I worry about the suggested solution. Maybe this debate should take place in relation to the context of the White Paper. Let us have an opening run at it now.

I think I have dealt with most of the points Deputy Ahern raised, but the final point he made dealt with restructuring the various manpower agencies and the idea of one big organisation. That looks neat and tidy on paper and would satisfy [281] myself, Fianna Fáil and the bureaucrats, but the delivery of an integrated service at local level would not necessarily automatically come about as a result of a single organisation. I am not convinced by his argument. I have no hang-up one way or the other as to which is the best system. One large bureaucratic monster might be the most effective way of doing it, but I have my reservations. A series of groups might be the way to do it, if you can get them to work closely together. I would hate to think either side of this House could get into an agony of debate over the structural model to deliver this kind of integrated service and we should pragmatically look at the best components we can put together at any one time, run them for a number of months, for a year or two and then, if they do not function, feel free to make a change. To some extent we are hung-up, and I include myself in this, in trying to solve problems by setting up structures and saying we need another new body or authority to do this or that. I do not think that is necessarily the answer. As Deputy Ahern said, we have gone through a process of internal discussion and debate on a White Paper in the Department, part of which addresses itself to institutional and structural arrangements. There has been a great deal of internal debate on this matter and there is no clear consensus as to which way it should be——

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  What is vitally important is that the Department of Labour get back control. The Department of Labour have lost control over the other agencies.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I accept the intervention. Whatever might have been the case in the past, I would assert that the Department of Labour are very much in control now, certainly by reference to other times. The role of the Department of Labour is to deliver on policy, to work out in advance what is required and then to instruct executive agencies to deliver. We should not be tied up in administrative work and field work for which we are neither equipped nor responsible. The Department of the Environment contract [282] out the delivery of services to local authorities; the Department of Health contract out the delivery of services to the health boards. The delivery is with the authority and the policy is with the Department. It is my intention to re-establish that form of model for the Department of Labour. Otherwise we would have to change the entire nature of the Department because officials who have expertise in the area of policy and management get bogged down in administrative and fieldwork delays and simply do not have time to take their heads up from the desks to see what problems are coming up over the ditch.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  We agree fully with the Minister on that.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I welcome that support. We will be moving in that direction. On that basis we might find that it would be more effective to have all these different schemes administered from a High Street shop. Whether that is the NMS office in one town or the employment exchange in another does not matter. A person would know that all the required information would be available in that shop. It is the difference between going to a super-market — if I can refer to a trade that is in my family — and going to one shop after another. All services would be available under one roof. We have made a considerable move in that direction. We have integrated and co-ordinated the design of the teamwork programme for under 25s with the design of the social employment scheme, which involves the direct provision of employment by the State.

A second area is concerned with enabling people to obtain work experience. There is also the employment incentive scheme. We have tightened up the regulations governing the operation of that scheme because there were some abuses. We had to take the trade-off between perhaps losing places because it would not be as attractive any more to employers while on the other hand ensuring that young people were not being exploited with taxpayers' money. I think [283] we have the balance right but we are only as good as our information. I would invite Deputies on all sides to contact us if they come across examples of exploitation and abuse. We responded before on the basis of information.

The third area relates to training. It gives me some pleasure to say that AnCO are a superb organisation in terms of skill and ability. During Ireland's Presidency I was president of the Council of EC Social Affairs Ministers and I had more than normal contact with the Commission and the Council. It emerged quite clearly and decidedly that AnCO were held in high regard in terms of their professionalism and knowledge. They who know more about the fieldwork dimension of training than the Department of Labour have advised us that in some areas there is a need for a variety of different programmes. It is simplistic to say that the programmes should be simplified and brought down in number to four or five. It is not that simple. There are certain disadvantaged groups who by virtue of their circumstances will not get jobs unless they reach a certain level of training. They need a special kind of targeted training to make up for difficulties they may have had in the past. That relates to children from the inner city as distinct from travellers and the people who live in rural Ireland. It is not possible to have a centrally designed programme which addresses the different needs of those people in the same way. There is no reason why diversity cannot be integrated and easily understood by potential beneficiaries of the programmes. It can be computerised and administered in a way that avoids the necessity for people to go from one office to another.

The Opposition, in putting down this motion, have given the House a timely opportunity to debate a matter which is of such enormous concern to the institution of democracy in this House that if we do not begin to move very fast and solve, in a meaningful and rational way the problem of employment, then it will not be a question of this side of the House [284] losing and the other side winning. The real risk is that the entire House will lose.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Minister is right.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  We share democratic traditions which are not very old and which are at risk on occasion from a small but growing minority of people who would use this situation and exploit the plight of people who through no fault of their own are without jobs.

The White Paper will be published before the end of this year and I will welcome the debate on its decisions. It will be a series of decisions backed up by reasons. In the meantime the modernisation and computerisation of the National Manpower Service is going ahead. If this debate has done anything it has reinforced on this side of the House the need for speed and urgency on that front.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Outside computers, outside expertise.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  That is on board.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  It is very important.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  It will be done as quickly as possible by whatever route. There probably is not an adult in this country who is not either the parent, relative or neighbour of a child studying for examinations. There is worry about the uncertainty of the transition from school to work. The Minister of State, Deputy George Birmingham, will address himself to that matter tomorrow. We are in the process of producing a rationalised presentation of all the various measures so that we can enable people to understand them.

I thank the Opposition for enabling the House to have this debate. I welcome the tone of the motion and the spirit in which contributions were made. I hope I have replied in a similar vein. We will respond to the points which have been so constructively made.

Mr. Lyons: Information on Denis Lyons  Zoom on Denis Lyons  I note with satisfaction that there seems to be an acceptance by the [285] Minister of the terms of our motion. I hope that the indications on the subject matter of our motion will receive attention in the shortest possible time as he agrees should be done.

My colleague listed an almost endless number of schemes and groups of people who are doing the best they can under their terms of reference to help people. I have no gripe with AnCO, CERT, the Youth Employment Agency, IMI courses, the IPA, environmental and education schemes. However, in the case of the enterprise allowance scheme, we are applying the rules too rigidly in some cases. Consideration should be given to bending the rule where it is an essential requirement to have 13 weeks' consecutive unemployment benefit to qualify for an enterprise scheme. That is discouraging to people who wish to work. I hope the Minister of State will at least give some consideration to those who are enterprising enough to start their own business and who wish to avail of the scheme. They should not be hit with a sledge hammer when a toffee hammer would do. If I mentioned the schemes available, it would take all the time allocated to name them.

Training and retraining for various skills is desirable and necessary in view of the changes which we are experiencing technologically but training and taking part in courses which do not have sustainable employment at the end achieve little or nothing. Unfortunately, this is the problem with many of the schemes and what little is achieved seems to be of a temporary nature which seems to satisfy the Government as it does not give a true picture of the numbers of people unemployed. All these schemes are costing the country many millions of pounds but they are making very little difference in terms of employment. That is why we put down this motion and I should like the Minister to accept its merit.

I emphasise that the fault is not with the people involved in the various schemes who are doing this training and retraining for young and not so young people who have lost their jobs. The responsibility for providing incentive and [286] encouragement to provide sustainable jobs must come from Government policies and from good leadership. If the Government had recognised the realities of the situation in industry and had responded by creating an environment more conducive to the needs of the industrial and commercial life of the nation, unemployment would not have reached its present dreadful level.

I am satisfied also that there are funds available which could be diverted to productive and job creating investment for economically viable projects. We must raise our sights and encourage that sort of investment. That confidence can only come from the Government, prodded by the Opposition. Between December 1979 and December 1984 the manufacturing industries lost 39,100 jobs according to CSO figures. We could conservatively add more job losses in the servicing and support industries which gives a fair indication of the position. Since 1981, the jobs lost average over 7,000 per year in the manufacturing industry. Allowing for all those involved in training and youth employment schemes in the last year we are reliably informed that it amounts to about 20,000 people at any given time. Nevertheless, we have an increase of 2,561 people under 25 registered as unemployed in one year. We must also remember the many who are not registered — this has already been mentioned — for various reasons. We must also take into account the scourge of emigration; it is estimated that 30,000 people are leaving every year.

Much has been said recently about the social employment scheme and a policy statement issued in December 1982 by the Youth Employment Agency said that programmes for young people based only on concepts of temporary employment should be replaced by an approach which addresses itself to young persons' employment problems. That is a very definite statement made in December 1982 and yet the — I do not know whether to call it the famous or the infamous — national plan continues to promote the concept of temporary employment in its social employment scheme ——

[287]Mr. G. Birmingham: Information on George. M. Birmingham  Zoom on George. M. Birmingham  That is for the over 25s.

Mr. Lyons: Information on Denis Lyons  Zoom on Denis Lyons  The setting up of COMTEC is another temporary measure which fails to tackle the problem. The social employment scheme, initiated in the Government plan in October 1984 and launched in February 1985 allowed for a sum of £29 million in 1985 to accommodate 10,000 persons in the scheme for each year of the plan. Recently, the Minister conducted a public relations exercise in my constituency to sell this scheme to a wide variety of people. This was the sixth or seventh area in which this public relations exercise, complete with slides and documentation, was launched and in response to a question from the floor, the Minister said that unemployment is on a level not experienced before and that some scheme had to be devised to combat it. The number working in this scheme at present is minimal although applications are in the region of 3,500 to 4,000.

We are half way through the year and very near to eight months since it was first mooted. These figures must indicate that an appraisal of the situation and the remedy suggested in our motion must be undertaken immediately. I am glad that the Minister accepted that we cannot allow this intolerable situation to continue unabated. About £200 million has been spent on all the various schemes. It is safe to say that the money collected from the 1 per cent youth employment levy is not being used for the purpose for which it was intended, that is, to create sustainable jobs for young people.

We are all aware that the cost of employing people today is militating against the creation of jobs. Short term schemes are of no use in the long term. We must create sustainable jobs. There are various reasons why the cost of employing people militates against the creation of jobs. In the first instance, the tax to the Government is 12.2 per cent. Unacceptable also is the cost, when one can get a quotation, of employers liability insurance. We are all aware that there are a number of firms going out of business [288] because employers cannot get this insurance.

A blanket scheme is being prepared to enable this scheme to continue but what about employers who wish to employ people but cannot do so because of the prohibitive cost? Our efforts have been too piecemeal over the last few years. It has been estimated that 20,000 new jobs are required every year to maintain the present level of unemployment. What about the 230,000 who are registered as unemployed? Many of them may never have a sustainable job.

The high cost of unemployment is reflected in the cost of employing people, the cost of service, energy, insurance, transport and PRSI. Until we come to grips with the policies which are being pursued unemployment will remain at its present high level. Those are not my words. We are told in the Government's plan that at the end of the planned period the number of people who will be out of work will be 226,000. I do not accept that figure. It will be far higher. One month after the publication of the plan the figure was out by 13,000. The Minister may be trying to plough a lone furrow in trying to combat unemployment. We will always co-operate. Our function in Opposition is to prod the Government into action. Unemployment is the most serious problem facing our country and we will not tolerate all the side issues being brought in. What we want is employment for our young people and not what was promised to them in a recent amendment.

Mr. E. O'Keeffe: Information on Ned O'Keeffe  Zoom on Ned O'Keeffe  I speak in support of the motion and thank my colleague for giving me some of his time. We cannot divorce youth unemployment from the general crisis in the economy. That crisis has been brought about by a lack of confidence. Until confidence is restored and people have been encouraged to invest we will not solve this problem. The Government should devote their abilities and make a greater effort to solve this crisis. They are failing to do that. That is why there are such problems with the [289] various schemes and why they are trying to develop and encourage new schemes.

I wish to praise a body who have been in operation for some time, namely, AnCO. They have done a great job and have been successful even in difficult times. They have a trainee scheme which is second to none. I was glad to hear the Minister praise it when he was president of the EC Council of Ministers in the social area this year.

Community youth employment projects have been very successful in rural areas. Many community halls have been built and there are now many first class facilities in rural areas as a result of these projects. These have given the people a new independence. They have a place where they can hold meetings, play games and so on and that is very important for rural areas. We have many great houses and castles. This is an area where youth employment schemes could be utilised. As we know, many of these great buildings are falling down but they could be restored and our heritage preserved for future generations.

The Youth Employment Agency are another body who were set up and there was great competition between them and AnCO. That was not in anyone's best interest. This motion is trying to tidy up that area.

In many rural areas entire families are unemployed. We must overcome that problem. It is demeaning. One scheme, which is a mickey mouse one, is the farm job scheme. We are losing our great skills in agriculture. There should be more concrete schemes for employment at farm level. I would like to see better co-operation with the Farm Apprenticeship Board who were set up a number of years ago. They have done very good work. Recently I read an article in the paper written by Labhras Ó Murchú. He dealt with the skill of tinsmith which has been lost in rural areas. We should preserve the skills we had in the past.

In Focus, issue No. 10, May 1985, there was an article entitled “Youth Year Roadshow is on the road.” It is an insult to our youth. The article states:

[290] The Roadshow, according to the organisers, “is a once-in-a-lifetime youth fair.”

Among the Roadshow's many features are rock and role gigs by a lively new Dublin rock band, “the Q” and breakdancing performances by the Mars breakdancing team — Dizzy Footwork.

That is demeaning our youth and is an insult to them. I thank the Chair and my colleague for affording me an opportunity to speak on this very important motion.

Debate adjourned.


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