Fermanagh South Tyrone Sinn Féin Sinn Féin -- Building an Ireland of Equals

"21,743 jobseekers West of the Bann - this is dire." - McGahan

Published: 8 December, 2014

Séin Fermanagh/South Tyrone MLA Bronwyn McGahan has expressed her alarm at the recently published report on Labour Mobility.

Speaking after the report was presented to the Committee for Employment and Learning, Ms.McGahan says,

"Labour mobility is an important aspect of a successful economy. It can help people gain the best return on their investment in skills. It is important for companies as it ensures they can access a wider pool of potential workers to address skills needs.

"This research report assesses the extent of current barriers to labour mobility in the North of Ireland and going by the results there are numerous of difficult barriers that need to be overcome if we are to deliver to our constituents.

"The report tells us that in the 'West' - which includes Armagh, Dungannon, Derry, Fermanagh and Strabane councils - amongst others - that there are 126,000 16-64 year olds who are currently economically inactive.

"That is 27.7% of the 16-64 population. Economically inactive are defined as people who are not in employment or unemployed. There are many reasons for this, for example, they might be studying, looking after family or long-term sick.

"However, within that, 21,743 are jobseekers. That is 4.8% of 16-64 population. This is the highest total out of all of the North - the closest being the 'East' at 18,931.

Ms.McGahan continues,

"Following on from this, on a 6 county wide scale, 31% of those currently claiming Job Seekers Allowance are educated to university level. This means that 31% of the population paid an estimated £9,000 each (for a three year degree) in University tuition fees. The same 31% are now earning, at most, £57 per week.

"Our young people are paying these fees, which the DUP and SDLP would happily increase, to come out of University with, what may seem to those university leavers claiming JSA, no more than one very expensive piece of paper.

"And let us not forget the 57 young people that have successfully completed their A-Levels and are now claiming JSA. They have studied three or four subjects in-depth over two years, many of them travelling to different schools depending on subject choices to do so and now they too are receiving at most, £57 per week. Why are these young people not furthering their skills or studies? Is it due to lack of support? Lack of money? Uncertainty in their career choices? More needs to be done to help these young people further themselves, be it career support, financial support or educational support.

"Additionally, again on a 6 county wide basis, only 2% of those interviewed use the DEL Careers Service, yet 27% of these use word of mouth. Is this a suggestion that DEL needs an overhaul? Our unemployed are among the most vulnerable in our community, yet only 2% of them use a free service provided by us and only 5% of them use the jobcentreonline website to find information on jobs.

"Additionally, 18% of currently unemployed have reported spending 'more time out of work than in work' whilst 26% explain that it has been 5 years or more since they were last employed. 12,500 people emigrated from the north of Ireland between mid-2011 and mid-2012. Two years later and this labour mobility report is highlighting that the situation hasn't improved; it may in fact have deteriorated.

"I am calling on both the DEL and DETI ministers to work together to improve this dire unemployment situation in order to develop our own economy to its fullest potential." ENDS