AN INITIATIVE aimed at bringing down Northern Ireland's level of economic inactivity – currently the highest in the UK – has been launched.
Economic inactivity refers to those people neither in work nor unemployed. Northern Ireland has the highest rate at 27.4%, compared to a UK average of 22.2%.
Employment and Learning minister Stephen Farry and Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster have launched a joint public consultation on a new strategy to tackle the problem.
This week it emerged that the number of people claiming the dole in Northern Ireland fell for an eleventh month in a row.
However the jobless rate remains unchanged at 7.3%, compared to a UK average of 7.1%.
Minister Farry said that the new plan is based around several themes, including increasing job opportunities and helping to break the cycle of inactivity by doing more to help those most at risk of disengaging from the labour market.
"High levels of economic inactivity have been a persistent feature of our local economy for over 30 years and we need to work collaboratively and smarter to tackle the problem and to help support individuals back into the labour market," he said.
Minister Foster added: "For many years, high levels of economic inactivity have been a persistent feature of the local economy.
"Our economic inactivity rate stands at 27.4%, compared to a UK average of 22.2% and a significant reduction in this level is vital to achieving the aims of our Economic Strategy.
"I recognise that the scale of this challenge cannot be underestimated and this will certainly require a partnership approach.
"We need to develop new ways of encouraging more people into employment by developing incentives, working with employers, and creating training and employment opportunities.
"I would therefore strongly encourage all interested parties to take this opportunity to read the strategic framework and the consultation document and submit your thoughts and proposals to us.
"The consultation will run for 12 weeks until April 17, 2014 and the findings from the consultation period will be integral in shaping the final strategy, including its implementation, delivery and management."