Wednesday, 15 February 1995
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. R. Bruton: The Deputy is well aware that, despite the continued improvement in the economy and the downward trend in unemployment over the past year, long term unemployment will remain a problem for this country and for other countries for the foreseeable future.
I am at present examining a number of issues in relation to the long term unemployed, including the recommendations of the National Economic and Social Forum. In this context I will consider the possibility of targeted number reductions in long term unemployment.
Mrs. O'Rourke: I welcome the Minister's reply. I hope you will bear with me, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, while I make a brief point. During our negotiations with the Labour Party on the formation of a Government, I made a specific recommendation that there should be numerical targets for the long  term unemployed as distinct from targets for the unemployed. This recommendation was not included in the programme of the rainbow Government. It is the only way we will be able to help the long term unemployed; we are inclined to think of unemployed people as one mass instead of as individuals with potential and aspirations which are dimmed as each month goes by. As the Minister said, the number of long term unemployed increased last year, despite an increase in employment, and it continues to increase. I urge him to act on his instincts and set numerical targets for the long term unemployed. If we fail to achieve them we can make an even greater effort the following month or quarter. When I met the Minister for Social Affairs in Belgium I was informed that they do this satisfactorily. This would provide institutions and organisations with an incentive to find a remedy to the problem.
Mr. R. Bruton: This matter is the source of particular concern. I can confirm that the number of long term unemployed increased by almost 17,000 between April 1992 and April 1994. However the most recent half year figure shows a slight decline.
Mr. R. Bruton: That is correct. The Government is giving this matter priority. A sum of £6 million has been set aside in the budget to establish on a pilot basis, a local employment service targeted at the long term unemployed and those considered to be at risk of becoming long term unemployed. This is the product of the work of the NESF and we hope will lead to a more coherent and client-driven approach being adopted in our intervention to support the long term unemployed.
Mrs. O'Rourke: Sadly, when my party was in Government the percentage increased from 47 per cent to 49 per cent at the end of October 1994. I understand the preliminary figures indicate that it continues to increase.
Mr. R. Bruton: The Deputy is correct. The ESRI has forecast — this is disturbing — that the number of long term unemployed could remain at 130,000 even after a further five year period of growth. It is clear that intervention is needed. We hope the proposal we have under consideration will sharpen our intervention and enable us to be more effective in this area.
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