Blueprint unveiled in new bid to tackle economic inactivity in Northern Ireland
A government strategy has been launched to tackle Northern Ireland's endemic problem of high economic inactivity.
The programme, Enabling Success, involves 11 projects to target key economically inactive groups, especially people with health problems and disabilities, as well as lone parents and carers.
It was launched yesterday by Employment Minister Dr Stephen Farry and Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster in a bid to find work for those of working age without jobs.
Of all the UK regions, Northern Ireland has the highest rate of economic inactivity in the UK at 26.8%.
The current employment rate here is 68.6% compared with a United Kingdom average of 73.4%.
Mr Farry said the new strategy was the only one of its kind in the UK. "High rates of economic inactivity have been a feature of our economy for decades and the launch of this new strategy demonstrates the commitment of the Executive in seeking to address the range of complex socio-economic issues associated with economic inactivity," he said.
"I recognise that there are some who will never be able to work due to the severity of their health conditions. However, there are many people with work-limiting conditions who, with the right support, may be able to participate."
Mrs Foster said high levels of economic inactivity represented a major problem within the economy. "I firmly believe that we must place Northern Ireland on a level footing with the rest of the UK in terms of economic competitiveness," she said.
"If unaddressed this could limit our ability to develop our economic prospects and grow a dynamic innovative economy."
By 2030 the programme aims to bring the employment rate in Northern Ireland in line with the UK average. A range of projects to reduce economic inactivity will be implemented including the development of a new model of support.
New measures will also be implemented to address wider labour barriers faced by older workers including a public awareness campaign to highlight the benefits of employing older workers and to promote age-positive recruitment practices.
A series of regional 'younger people's advocates' will be appointed to engage with young people most at risk of becoming economically inactive. Their aim will be to help inspire and support positive life choices among young people.