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Ceisteanna — Questions (Resumed) - Employment Levels

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 760 No. 3

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 1.  Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett  asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny  the number of workers in employment; the way same compares to figures under the previous Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28872/11]

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe The Quarterly National Household Survey, QNHS, is the official source of estimates of employment in the State. The most recent figures available are for the fourth quarter of 2011. The data requested by the Deputy in respect of employment is presented in a table. The number of persons in employment peaked at 2,149,800 in the third quarter of 2007. The first annual decline in employment was recorded in the second quarter of 2008. The pace of decline was greatest during 2009, with a fall of 184,700, or 8.8%, recorded in the year to the third quarter of 2009. Since then, the rate of reduction in employment has slowed. As of the fourth quarter of 2011, the level of employment has fallen to 1,807,800, a decrease of 342,000, or 15.9%, from peak levels.

The number employed in the fourth quarter of 2011 was 0.8% lower than the level recorded a year earlier. This is the lowest annual reduction recorded since the second quarter of 2008. As a further indicator of the relative stabilisation of the labour market, we can note that a quarterly increase of 10,000 was recorded in the seasonally adjusted employment series, the first such increase since the end of 2007.

Table 1: Persons aged 15 years and over in employment (ILO) classified by sex and quarter

  Employment Annual change in employment
  Males Females All persons Males Females All persons
Quarter 2 2007 1,206.6 907.3 2,113.9 32.8 46.2 79.0
Quarter 3 2007 1,225.9 923.9 2,149.8 31.1 46.8 77.9
Quarter 4 2007 1,213.7 925.0 2,138.8 18.4 43.5 61.9
Quarter 1 2008 1,198.9 925.2 2,124.1 2.3 33.4 35.6
Quarter 2 2008 1,190.2 922.7 2,112.8 -16.4 15.4 -1.1
Quarter 3 2008 1,182.4 924.7 2,107.1 -43.5 0.8 -42.7
Quarter 4 2008 1,143.4 911.2 2,054.6 -70.3 -13.8 -84.2
Quarter 1 2009 1,076.7 888.9 1,965.6 -122.2 -36.3 -158.5
Quarter 2 2009 1,052.0 886.5 1,938.5 -138.2 -36.2 -174.3
Quarter 3 2009 1,040.0 882.4 1,922.4 -142.4 -42.3 -184.7
Quarter 4 2009 1,016.2 871.6 1,887.7 -127.2 -39.6 -166.9
Quarter 1 2010 996.3 861.4 1,857.6 -80.4 -27.5 -108.0
Quarter 2 2010 996.1 863.0 1,859.1 -55.9 -23.5 -79.4
Quarter 3 2010 994.5 857.0 1,851.5 -45.5 -25.4 -70.9
Quarter 4 2010 973.0 850.2 1,823.2 -43.2 -21.4 -64.5
Quarter 1 2011 962.1 842.1 1,804.2 -34.2 -19.3 -53.4
Quarter 2 2011 970.0 851.3 1,821.3 -26.1 -11.7 -37.8

Source: Quarterly National Household Survey, Central Statistics Office.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett Is it not a fact that we are facing an unemployment catastrophe and that, since the Government entered into office, there has not been the slightest improvement in this disastrous situation, given that more than 14% of people are unemployed? Is it not the truth that the only reason we are not facing a far worse unemployment situation is because tens of thousands of people have been forced to leave this country by the Government’s failure to live up to its campaign slogan, that is, “Get the country working”? Its inability is due to its disastrous decision to adhere to the policies of bailing out banks at the expense of our country’s economic future and citizens. Is this not the reality? The Government has not made a single dent in the unemployment situation. Hundreds of more jobs will go today and shops and businesses are closing the length and breadth of the country.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett This is a statistical question only.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett There is no prospect of the Government making a dent in the unemployment situation while it continues on its current policy path.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I remind the House that this is a statistical question only. Any policy issue can be dealt with separately.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe I am not surprised to hear Deputy Boyd Barrett’s rhetoric. One would expect nothing less. I assure the Deputy that the Government’s priority is to create jobs. The first step is to stabilise the economy to sustain the jobs that we already have. We have halted the shedding of jobs experienced in 2008 to 2010. There have been a number of positive moves and the Government has developed a number of initiatives in the past 12 months to create new employment and reskill people for different employment. My constituency is an example of an area that was dependent on the construction industry, which has collapsed. We must reskill people to work in other areas.

I presume that Deputy Boyd Barrett is like the rest of the Independents, who switch off the news whenever there are positive stories. Recent months have seen a number of positive developments in the jobs market with the creation of several thousand jobs. Eli Lilly in Kinsale, County Cork will invest €300 million and create more than 500 jobs, 200 of them directly and 300 in the construction of its plant. PayPal announced 1,000 jobs recently. In Dublin, Mastercard will create 130 jobs in its global technology office. Abbott in Sligo will create 175 jobs. [627] In Galway and Kildare, Hewlett Packard will create 280 jobs. These six examples involve the creation of 2,150 jobs, but I presume that the Deputy switched off the news when he heard their announcements. He would rather be negative, negative, negative. I have no problem with that, as it is his role as a politician, but the incentives put in place by the Government in recent months will see a positive outcome.

I was in Germany during St. Patrick’s week and visited agencies there, including Bord Bia, the IDA, Enterprise Ireland and Tourism Ireland. They had positive news. I also attended the MEDICA Trade Fair, where 15 Irish companies in the medical field and primarily based in Galway had some positive news.

We have halted the shedding of jobs and are entering into a more positive period. As the Deputy knows, the end result of the upturn in the economy will be the creation of jobs. If we are to attract foreign direct investment we must have a positive economy, which is our aim.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett Of course I welcome new jobs.

  4 o’clock

It is disingenuous to say otherwise. I welcome every job that is announced but the figures speak for themselves. There is no movement in the proportion of the population who are unemployed. Is it not a fact that our unemployment would be bordering on catastrophic were it not for the tens of thousands of people who leave the country every year? We would be facing a higher number in absolute and percentage terms were it not for forced emigration. The limited number of good news stories about foreign companies setting up here is outweighed by the collapse of the domestic economy. We heard further news today of companies going out of business and hundreds of people losing their jobs.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Has the Deputy a question?

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett That relates to fact that the Government’s strategy is solely based on luring foreign investment.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett It is Question Time.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett The slashing of public expenditure and the failure of the State to stimulate the economy means that we cannot move——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I remind the Deputy we are on Question Time.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett ——the unemployment figures in any serious way. That is the problem. Unless we have State investment, we cannot impact on the unemployment crisis. That is what the Government needs to do.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe I do not accept that the domestic economy is collapsing. I recognise that a considerable number of people are emigrating. I do not want to see people emigrating. I want to see job opportunities being created for our well-educated workforce so that people can remain in Ireland when they leave college. Nobody wants to see a brother, sister, niece or nephew — as I have — leave Ireland for Australia, the UK or America. We would be in a worse state if people did not have the opportunity to seek job opportunities abroad but I believe these people will come back if we give them the opportunity to do so. That is what this Government is doing.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The Minister of State set out figures for the fourth quarter of 2011 in reply to the question on the number of workers in employment. Is that the latest period for which figures are available?

[628]Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe Yes.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I understand the figure for the first quarter of 2012 was 1.8 million.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe The second quarter of 2011.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Are they are the last figures?

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe Yes.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin We have nothing since then. Does the figure relate to the budget’s projection of an increase in unemployment over 2012? That projection gives the lie to the claims about macro-employment action plans.

I am alarmed by the Minister of State’s claim that the domestic economy is not collapsing. The retail, construction and domestic services sector are in a depressed state. People who are trying their best to survive have become pessimistic about the future. They believe the 2% increase in VAT had a detrimental impact on consumer sentiment and job creation in the domestic economy. People in the retail sector feel sore that the Government reneged on the clear commitment it gave before the election on upward only rent reviews. They also want commercial rates to be reduced to give them breathing space. They cannot point to concrete actions on the part of the Government to alleviate the pressure on them.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Can we have a question?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Has the Government distinguished between employment in the domestic economy as opposed to foreign direct investment companies? We gain on some foreign direct investment but we also lose when companies pull out or take longer than expected to mature. I welcome the Eli Lilly investment inasmuch as construction on the project will begin shortly but the permanent posts are three years away. The closure of Game yesterday followed the collapse of a number of other companies.

I understand that the number of redundancies shot up in December. Was that related to the budget decision to reduce the employer rebate? The Minister for Finance was warned about the potential impact. Apparently the redundancy rate increased significantly in December as companies sought to meet the end of year deadline for the rebate.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe I will revert to the Deputy on whether the figures were set out in the budget. The Government has taken several positive initiatives since coming to power, including Pathways to Work, JobsBridge and the action plan for jobs. Everyone recognises that the retail sector is struggling but the issue of rates did not fall from the sky in the last 12 months. The issue existed when the Deputy was on this side of the House but his Government failed to address it. Where will local authorities find the necessary funding if we get rid of rates?

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins The local government efficiency review identified €500 million.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe What action did Fianna Fáil take to deal with rates when it was in Government?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Fine Gael controlled the local authorities.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe Fianna Fáil controlled the local authorities when the country was flush with money.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae Fine Gael is in power now.

[629]Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe If we get rid of rates, how do the Deputies opposite propose to replace the funding?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Can we return to the statistical question?

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins He is straying off course.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe The Government’s priority for its first months was to sustain existing jobs as well as put in place initiatives to create further employment. A number of these initiatives are already having an impact but the most important task is stabilising the economy and enticing overseas investment into Ireland.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Can the Minister of State confirm that the most recent quarterly figures showed an increase in unemployment and emigration? While I acknowledge the positive announcements made by various companies which are willing, despite everything, to invest in Ireland, I ask whether job creation is outweighed by the scale of job losses. Negative stories of job losses include Game, Vita Cortex, Aviva, Bank of America, MBNA, AIB, Ulster Bank, TalkTalk and, possibly, Eircom. Does the Minister of State agree that if one adds the 70,000 to 80,000 Irish citizens who supposedly took the lifestyle choice of emigration to the live register figures, the scale of the problem becomes much bigger? The level of unemployment has increased substantially since the Government took office.

Can the Minister of State acknowledge or confirm that Ireland is once again officially in recession?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett That is nothing to do with the question before us.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh These are statistics based on unemployment, employment and growth.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett This is a statistical question about the numbers in employment and how they compare with the previous Government. It is not about policy.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh This is not to do with policy. I am asking the Minister of State to confirm that we are in recession, which is a statistical figure based on GDP having retracted for two consecutive quarters. These are in the same document and are tied to unemployment as is the fact that inflation in that period has also increased and is now standing at more than 2%

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett The Deputy who asked the question asked the Taoiseach “the number of workers in employment; the way same compares to figures under the previous Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter”. This is purely statistical and for the past 20 minutes we have been straying off the question. Perhaps the Minister of State might reply to Deputy Ó Snodaigh, but it is purely statistical.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe Any unemployment figure is way too high. If it was under the previous Government, or five years or ten years ago, it would still be too high. I would like to see full employment in Ireland — unfortunately we do not have that. Hopefully in the future we can decrease the number of people who are unemployed. I do not accept there are more people unemployed now compared with 12 months ago. I do not believe it has shifted that much. I do not think it has gone into tens of thousands. There might be a shift on the plus or minus side.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh I can assure the Minister of State that it is on the plus side.

[630]Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe I can assure the Deputy it is not the rate he mentioned. The Government has introduced a number of plans, including the action plan for jobs and the JobBridge scheme. These are all positive initiatives to reduce the rate of unemployment. Since Saturday the Taoiseach has been in China, where 1.3 billion people live, in order to encourage foreign direct investment. This is all part of encouraging people to do business in Ireland and to get them here. I believe we took our eye off the ball in recent years and we need to get back into that marketplace again to encourage people to come to Ireland. Ministers who visited different countries for St. Patrick’s Day have brought some very positive news from those countries.

There is no doubt that we have a problem but, as a Government, we are doing our best to solve the problem and get people back to work. Everyone in this House knows somebody who has lost a job. They can often have no confidence in themselves. However, when they get back into employment their confidence goes straight up again and it gives them a new sense of life and hope.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath The figures the Minister of State gave in his response seem to be nine months out of date. Do we have no figures for the third and last quarters of last year, and the first quarter of this year? Figures for the first quarter of 2011 are wildly out of date and surely we can do better than that.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe The CSO have figures but not for employed people right up to the end of last year. When Deputy Mattie McGrath was part of the previous Government——

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath This does not relate to the previous Government. The Minister of State should answer the question.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe —— the very same set of figures would have been shown.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath How are we supposed to operate with those figures?


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