Sunday, February 26, 2012

New 'Pathways' programme will not reduce unemployment

The Government's new 'Pathways' programme goes nowhere near what is required to have a significant impact on Ireland's unemployment crisis according to Social Justice Ireland.  

Dr Seán Healy, Director of Social Justice Ireland stated that: "According to the Government's own projections there will be fewer jobs in Ireland at the end of 2012 than there were at the start of the year. This new programme will not reduce the numbers of Ireland's long term unemployed i.e. those who have been unemployed for more than a year. Some of its proposals will help to up-skill some unemployed people and the creation of 'one stop shops' is a welcome move. However the programme should have included a substantial initiative to create real part-time jobs for people who are long-term unemployed.”
Less than 4 years ago only 30,000 people in Ireland were long-term unemployed.  

The focus should not be on penalising certain groups; most unemployed people would take a job if it were available. 

While Social Justice Ireland welcomes the National Training Fund and Springboard places already announced in Budget 2012 and contained in the 'Pathways' programme, Government provides no evidence as to how it will face the significant challenge in meeting the core focus of the programme on both short-term and long-term unemployment.

The Department of Social Protection describes the new programme as a "contractual relationship” between the claimant and the state, whereby the claimant agrees to avail of any support measures offered during this process including "employment, education, training and/or placement in employment schemes.”    

Nowhere within the programme are the details given of how the state will provide the employment needed to get those who are long-term unemployed back into employment.  

Dr Seán Healy, Director of Social Justice Ireland stated that: "This contractual relationship means that the State must honour its part of the contract to create employment opportunities for the unemployed”. 

Social Justice Ireland had proposed that Government create a Part-Time Job Opportunities Programme aimed at taking 100,000 people off the live register over a three-year period. 

This approach was successfully piloted in six different parts of the country during Ireland's last period of high unemployment (1994-98).  

"This programme was main-streamed by the Rainbow Coalition Government in 1997 and worked very well then.  

It has the potential to dramatically reduce the numbers long-term unemployed today” according to Michelle Murphy, Research and Policy Analyst with Social Justice Ireland.

"The new programme fails to realise that there will be no major reduction in the numbers long-term unemployed for quite some time no matter what market-based solutions are put in place. The scale of unemployment is now so high that more radical initiatives are required particularly if long-term unemployment is to be reduced.” according to Seán Healy.

 "While initiatives focused on improving job creation and protecting jobs that already exist are very welcome and necessary they should not be allowed create an illusion that Ireland's unemployment crisis will be resolved in the period immediately ahead” according to Michelle Murphy.

The Part-Time Job Opportunities programme proposal presented to Government by Social Justice Ireland:
  • Would create 100,000 part-time jobs for unemployed people;
  • Paid at the going hourly rate for the job;
  • Participants would work the number of hours required to earn the equivalent of their social welfare payment and a small top-up;
  • Access would be on a voluntary basis only;
  • Jobs would be created in the public sector and the community and voluntary sector;
  • Participants would be remunerated principally through the reallocation of social welfare payments.
  • Working on these jobs, participants would be allowed to take up other paid employment in their spare time without incurring loss of benefits and would be liable to tax in the normal way if their income was sufficient to bring them into the tax net.
 "Implementation of this programme would produce a triple-win situation: it would benefit those who were long-term unemployed and their families; it would benefit local communities and local services; and it would benefit economic development” according to Seán Healy.

 Notes for Editors
  • Social Justice Ireland is an organisation of individuals and groups throughout Ireland who are committed to working to build a just society where human rights are respected, human dignity is protected, human development is facilitated and the environment is respected and protected.