Belfast Telegraph

Official jobless figures 'too low'

Official jobless figures showing almost half a million people are out of work are too low, an economic think-tank has warned.

The National Economic and Social Council (NESC) said Ireland's labour market will take years to recover from the recession, with long-term unemployment relentlessly rising.

And it stressed that Live Register figures showing 470,284 people claimed unemployment benefits in July were not accurate.

Senior policy analyst John Sweeney said: "The Live Register is not a good measure for unemployment. A lot of people who lost their jobs in the last three years are not entitled to be on it.

"The unemployed self-employed, people who have exhausted their entitlements and whose spouses or partners continue to earn do not appear on it."

The NESC report on how people in Ireland are supported while unemployed will advise Government on economic and social policy. Dr Sweeney, lead author, revealed he was struck at how badly the new unemployed were treated by the social welfare system.

"Ireland's levels of income support for people jobless a long time are high by international standards, but not when people first become unemployed," he said.

He highlighted that Ireland's social welfare payment rates do not take into account a worker's previous earnings or years of service like other EU countries, and raised concerns that replacement rates - the disposable income between what they once earned and get in benefits - are too low.

The Government said in a statement that the analysis would be a valuable addition to its knowledge of national and international trends in social policies focused on combining social protection with a high level of unemployment.

"The report underlines the fact that building a more effective public employment service, and the framing of a temporary response to unemployment, is a challenge not only to central government, but requires the coordinated and competent engagement of a wide number of actors - state agencies, local government, education and training providers, social partners, NGOs and social welfare recipients themselves," it said.

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