Belfast Telegraph

Unemployment reaches 16-year high

The Government has been accused of doing nothing to stem the tide of emigration as unemployment reached a 16-year high.

Official figures showed 13.7% of the workforce was on the dole in July with 452,500 people signing on - up 34,400 on last year. Professionals made up a sixth of the latest workers to fall victim of the recession.

But Mark Fielding, of the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association, claimed more than half a million people were out of work, with the true level masked by the rising numbers who emigrate, join state training or return to education.

"The lack of innovative economic and business thinking, leading to a form of paralysis at Cabinet level, is mind-boggling," said Mr Fielding. "It is a crying shame that a whole generation of young, educated Irish has to become economic migrants, like their parents in the Seventies and Eighties. Meanwhile our Government can afford to take holidays, bereft of ideas, lacking a plan, without a solution in sight."

The Central Statistics Office seasonally adjusted live register - which includes part-time, seasonal and casual workers - showed 3,900 men and 4,600 women were among the new applicants in July. Elsewhere almost 40,000 redundancies have been reported to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation so far this year.

Opposition parties hit out at the Government's response to the unemployment rate - a level last recorded in July 1994. Fine Gael's Richard Bruton said the figures represent the human cost of failed Government policies.

"The first wave of unemployment hit construction and manufacturing, where 180,000 jobs were wiped out, mainly for men. Now we see a second phase with huge job losses hitting white collar workers, mainly women, as the recession takes hold," said Mr Bruton, spokesman on enterprise, jobs and economic planning.

Willie Penrose, Labour Party spokesman on enterprise, claimed solving the job crisis has dropped to the bottom of the Government's agenda. "When it comes to tackling this problem, this Fianna Fail/Green Government is like a deer caught in the headlights," he said. "They have a strategy to rescue the banks; they have a strategy to introduce savage cutbacks in crucial public services, they even have a strategy to lease vacant houses from bankrupt developers, but they have no strategy to tackle unemployment."

Eamon O Cuiv, Minister for Social Protection, said: "The Government is very concerned at the difficulties households are facing because of unemployment and the creation of new jobs is our top priority," he said.

Meanwhile, Tanaiste Mary Coughlan pledged to ease the jobs crisis for young people by adding an additional 12 million euro to the Labour Market Activation Fund. Ms Coughlan said the cash injection will support education and training programmes for at least 5,000 additional unemployed people and will bring the total number of participant places supported by the fund to more than 11,000 this year.

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