The Government must remove barriers that are acting as disincentives to people taking up work training places, according to IBEC West, the group representing business in the region.
Commenting on the National Household Survey statistics released last week, which highlight the devastating effect of the economic downturn as the region’s unemployment rate hit 14.9 per cent, the group has called on the Government and its agencies to focus on getting people, particularly graduates, back to work as a matter of priority.
“The west has been devastated in the last number of years by job losses, with the unemployment rate having increased from 6.4 per cent in the second quarter of 2008 to 14.9 per cent by the same period in 2010,” said John Brennan, IBEC regional director. “The Government must act quickly and decisively to avoid the problems of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Every effort to get people back into work should be supported.
“Young people in particular are being hard hit by the lack of jobs, and many are finding emigration their only option for finding work. This is a national tragedy affecting the whole country. The business community would like to see the Government do everything in its power to keep these talented young individuals in Ireland.”
Mr Brennan said the Government needs to support programmes that place participants in real jobs in the marketplace to enable a meaningful transition back into paid employment once the economy recovers. Existing schemes such as the FÁS work placement programme should be scaled up and new initiatives, such as a national graduate internship programme, should be created, he suggested.
“Currently, graduates taking part in unpaid internships are able to keep their social welfare benefits, but companies are not allowed to offer any additional benefits or payments. We would like to see the Government introduce a national bursary scheme that would allow companies to top-up graduates' social welfare benefits, which would in turn make participation more attractive for graduates.
In complete contrast this week, Minister for Social Protection, Éamon Ó Cuív TD, welcomed a drop in new Live Register figures just published, calling the reduction “encouraging and very welcome.”
Figures published by the CSO show that the Live Register September figure is 442,417 which is 24,506 below the August 2010 total. This month-on-month decrease is the biggest fall ever recorded.
In response, Fine Gael Social Protection Spokesman Michael Ring TD said Minister Ó Cuív had nothing to crow about when 450,000 people still do not have full time work.
“People are leaving the country in droves. Worst of all, we are in danger of losing an entire generation of young people. This brain drain is depriving Ireland of the talented people that we need to rebuild the economy. Most of them will not come back. And that is a tragedy we cannot afford”, he said.