That Dáil Éireann deplores the failure of the Government to produce coherent policies to combat the problem of rapidly rising unemployment.
This is a motion that was tabled after considerable thought. The workers are now involved in a tragic situation. We have examined the situation. We believe the Government are not aware of the actual situation that exists. On 23rd October, 1974, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach said, in reply to me, and I quote from the Official Report, column 17, volume 275, for that date:
The number of persons on the live register on 4th October, 1974, was 71,412 and the number on 5th October, 1973, was 60,910.
I asked :
Could the Parliamentary Secretary indicate if redundant persons are included and if professional unemployed people are included?
The Parliamentary Secretary replied:
The only information I have got is of the kind which has been circulated to Deputies and which the Deputy would have received in the post. I will inquire into the further point put by the Deputy if he wants to pursue it.
Later on I said:
In view of the Parliamentary Secretary's statement that he will look into the matters raised, would he agree that the figures given do not give the entire situation in regard to the unemployment situation throughout the country?
He replied :
Naturally information about a phenomenon like unemployment contained in a single foolscap sheet will not cover every element. That is obvious.
It was quite clear that the information which has been circulated to Deputies is not comprehensive and does not give a clear picture. If the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach had no indication of the actual position in relation to unemployment then it would be very difficult for other members of the Government to have this type of information. The Parliamentary Secretary really did not know how many people were unemployed. When one examines the situation and sees the vast number unemployed at present one wonders whether this is what the Labour Party meant by socialism in the seventies or the new republic or have we still got the old Fine Gael outlook that it is not the duty of the Government to find employment for the people. Have the Labour Party accepted this?
We have examined the situation in depth following the Parliamentary Secretary's reply. On 29th October the quarterly economic survey of the Economic and Social Research Institute indicated that the level of unemployment stood at 79,596. The ESRI point out that this is the highest ever since the war. Their report also forecasts that the number of unemployed will he in the region of 90,000 by January or February next. Another expert put the figure at far higher than 90,000. However, the Central Statistics Office on 25th October gave the figure on the live register as 73,477. This was the only information the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach had on that occasion. Other groups carrying out surveys have different figures, far higher figures.
That is not the whole story. We have examined the situation here as against the situation outside. Ministers have spoken at great length about outside factors. The number of people unemployed in Northern Ireland on 14th October was 30,880, some 4,694 less than the previous month. The number of unemployed in Britain, according to figures published by the Department of Employment there, was 643,442, a decrease of 39,233 as compared with September. Those are the trends in Britain and Northern Ireland, our closest neighbours. They have downward trends while the upward trend continues here.
There is a difficulty, of course, in comparing the present figures with those when Fianna Fáil left office because of the number of changes that have taken place, particularly the reduction in the retirement age from 70 to 68. If that is taken into consideration there are a further 25,000 people who would appear on the live register as unemployed. If we take that 25,000 and the figure of 79,596 given by the very responsible Economic and Social Research Institute, the figure is 104,596. That figure is bad enough but taken with the other factors such as short-time working and redundancy it indicates clearly the terrible position at the moment. It is about time the Government made a comprehensive examination of the unemployment figures and produced some policies to meet this terrible crisis.
The Taoiseach and other members of the Government being questioned in Dáil Éireann up to a couple of weeks ago indicated that there was no real problem. Then the Taoiseach decided to bring together the captains of industry and the trade unions to discuss the terrible tragedy he found on his doorstep overnight. This is a situation that has developed not overnight but over many months and possibly over a year or more. The Government took no action and tried to indicate there was no problem. We now find ourselves with over 100,000 people unemployed. I would say the figure is far higher than that indicated when one takes into consideration the number of people who have lost their jobs and who have emigrated and do not appear on the live register. There are the school-leavers seeking employment for the first time, adult students, professional people who do not appear on the live register. There are the redundant persons who need retraining; the lumpers in the building trade who do not appear on the live register; the self-employed people who have lost their employment, the semi-professional and other groups. These people do not appear on the live register and therefore the position is graver than was indicated by the Parliamentary Secretary. If people are laid off for only one day a week they do not appear on the live register. If they are out for two days possibly they do appear. This is a further reduction in the earning power of the workers. There is a very real problem on our doorstep and so far we have had no indication that the position may improve except an indication from the Minister for Industry and Commerce in the House recently that this situation will probably be with us for 18 months or so—that we will have a developing situation during the next 18 months.
We have a tragic situation, one the public would like to know the extent of, and it is only by examining it in depth and finding its real extent that we will be enabled to take measures to combat it. Many workers throughout industry have been laid off but the number of casual workers who are laid off do not appear on the live register.
The Government have no policy whatsoever to solve this problem. Indeed, I believe it was deliberately created by the Government in order to get over other problems. Mr. Killeen of the IDA estimated that 15,000 jobs would be lost this year. We can add them to the 100,000 already unemployed. Then, there have been 15,000 redundancies. That is the extent of the problem and with short time and other devices there is no hope for the workers in the foreseeable future.
If experts who have examined the situation are correct, and there has been no suggestion that their figures are erroneous, the pay-packets of many people now employed are at risk. Broken time is now becoming a widespread device used by employers. There is also short time. What the Government should be talking about and taking action on is fulltime employment for all our people. These devices of short time and broken time used by unscrupulous employers should be acted on by trade unions to protect the workers. It is being blindly accepted that workers have to be laid off. I am sure that many employers have work but that they choose these devices to hide the real situation.
In this tragic situation, the newspapers give us more information than the Parliamentary Secretary or the Taoiseach. The Cork Examiner described the situation as the worst since the 1950s and the main victims are the wage earners. Hunger marches and dole queues are no solution. People must be put back to work so that their families will be provided with the necessities of life. The Central Statistics Office figures do not give us a true picture of the problem. When the factual position becomes clear, when the smoke-screens have been blown away, when we have had an in-depth assessment of the situation, effective counter measures must be taken. A wishbone is no substitute for backbone and it takes backbone on the part of a Government to ensure that people are put back to work.
It is only three weeks since the Taoiseach discovered that a crisis existed. That is the extent to which he is removed from reality, from the glaring fact that 100,000 people are unemployed, that an emergency situation exists. Is it still the old Fine Gael policy that it is not the duty of the Government to provide work for the people, and have the Labour Party now accepted that approach?
Review of 1973 and the Outlook for 1974 gives just two lines to this. We find paragraph 16 on page 60 :
Employment is estimated to show a slight net increase over 1973, the main increases occurring in Chemicals and Food.
This is an indication of the type of in-depth study being done, the type of consideration being given to the employment factor.
Another matter on which one might seek clarification is as to whether the Government are sacrificing jobs for the sake of monetary stability. Some Ministers make this point. Others repudiate it. One would like to know clearly what the policy of the Government is and how they intend to deal with the problem.
We have Deputy O'Leary and others——