“Much still to be done”

4 Dec 2013

Over the past week the Central Statistics Office released the Quarterly National Household Survey for the third quarter of 2013 and the Live Register figures for November 2013. The Live Register has continued to float downwards and at 406,200, the seasonally adjusted figure is similar to figures last seen in mid 2009. Similarly the Standardised Unemployment Rate of 12.5% was last seen in July 2009.

“The headline figures may be moving in the right direction but it is really important that we do not get complacent about unemployment,” said Bríd O’Brien, INOU’s Head of Policy and Media. “Long-term unemployment remains a very significant challenge and it is critically important that meaningful options are offered to unemployed people to support them to get a decent job,” she continued.  

Looking at the unadjusted Live Register figures, the extent of the unemployment challenge facing Ireland becomes apparent. 46% of those on the Live Register have been on it for more than a year and this figure, standing at 179,758 has only fallen back to 2011 levels. The age and gender profile of this figure is striking: 88% are aged 25 years and over; while 69% are men. However, the numbers of men on the Live Register have fallen over the past year; but the numbers of women on the Register for more than a year increased to 56,269. 

In the QNHS figures the headline employment and unemployment figures were moving the right direction, up and down respectively. “However, it is important to remember how these figures are collected and the questions that are put to people in the survey,” noted Bríd.So, for example, if you are unemployed but have worked for an hour, a day in the week before the survey you will be counted as employed,” she continued. “Or if you are unemployed, have become disheartened in trying to find work, you will be deemed ‘inactive’ and not counted amongst the unemployed,” she concluded. This latter group are captured in the Potential Additional Labour Force figure and it stands at 56,600 people; while 165,100 people were categorised as officially long-term unemployed in Q3 2013.  

At a personal level, managing unemployment is extremely difficult: it impacts on the individual’s self esteem and confidence; it can be hard to make ends meet, including the cost of seeking employment. Given all of this the INOU joined with other colleagues in the community and voluntary sector and a number of concerned politicians in calling for the re-establishment of the Christmas Bonus. A payment which helped many long-term social welfare recipients survive a very expensive time of the year.