Ceisteanna—Questions Oral Answers. - Employment Premium Scheme.

6.

asked the Minister for Labour if he has any proposals to eliminate the discrimination under the employment premium scheme against persons in receipt of unemployment assistance.

The premium employment programme does not discriminate against persons in receipt of unemployment assistance provided they have received unemployment benefit on at least one occasion since 20th June, 1974, and were signing on the live register for the four weeks prior to employment under the programme.

So that there is discrimination in regard to this programme in the field of unemployment assistance?

The Deputy may not have heard my reply, which was that the programme does not discriminate provided the persons concerned have received unemployment benefit on at least one occasion since 20th June, 1974.

That is a different situation.

This is leading to argument. Question No. 7.

I can only give the Deputy the factual reply.

Is it not the position that school leavers who have never held jobs and who are registered for unemployment assistance do not qualify under this programme?

There are two separate things. The problem of persons seeking employment for the first time is a separate one and is being tackled independently of the programme. A series of measures designed to deal with youth employment and training have been introduced. These include the expansion of the activities of AnCO to enable 9,000 people to be trained in 1976, the introduction and expansion of the community youth training programme, and the introduction of the carrer training programme. These are separate and distinct issues.

Would the Minister agree that a youth of 20 years of age who is registered with the National Manpower Service does not qualify and so he is discriminated against when he goes to look for a job? It may not be suitable for him to go to AnCO for various reasons. He is discriminated against because he never stamped a card. If he had collected unemployment benefit for one week he would qualify.

Brief questions please, Deputy.

Because of his age and because he has never had a job he does not qualify.

Essentially the Deputy seems to object to the proviso or the condition that an eligible employee should have received unemployment benefit at least once since 20th June, 1974. This proviso was designed to ensure that the programme would only apply to those workers who lost their jobs as a result of recession and not to the long term unemployed and school leavers who, as I explained in reply to an earlier question, are being treated as a separate problem on a separate basis.

In view of the report published today that our real unemployment figure is 180,000—I might add a figure mentioned by me in this House some months ago—would the Minister now recommend to the Minister concerned that this condition of the premium employment programme be reviewed, particularly in the interests of unemployed school leavers?

The Deputy's question is based on a misunderstanding. There is no truth in the report published in some newspapers about a figure of 180,000 unemployed. I am glad to have an opportunity of putting that on the record here.

Arising out of the Minister's reply——

Order. We have had a long series of questions on No. 6. I want to deal with another question. One final supplementary.

I invite the Minister to a public debate with me regarding the real unemployment figure. I will be pleased to prove to him that the real figure is at least 180,000.

I do not think the Deputy could prove that. However, I will convey his challenge to a debate to my colleague, the Minister for Labour, and, if he is free, I am sure he will be delighted to accept it.

I am obliged to the Minister.

If he ever comes home.

7.

asked the Minister for Labour the number of persons employed under the employment premium programme since the summer of 1975; and if he has any intention of extending the scheme to embrace other industries.

Since the introduction of the premium employment programme up to 1st October, 1976, 5,901 employees have been returned to full-time employment with the aid of the programme.

Measures to increase employment possibilities in all industries are under review.

Will the Minister indicate to the House the number of people who have been re-employed under this scheme since its extension in June of this year, or would I be correct in estimating that the figure is less than 100?

If the Deputy would care to put down a separate question on that, he will get an answer. I do not seem to have it in the material.

It is too embarrassing to answer.

I assure the Deputy that I am prepared to give him answers from all the material in my possession but I cannot give him material which I have not got.

When this scheme was introduced originally about 16 months ago a target was set by the Minister for the re-employment of 10,000 people in the first year of its operation. Now from the reply we have got in this House, the real figure from the inception of the scheme to date is less than 5,500 people.

Sorry, less than 6,000. In view of that and the lack of progress in the scheme, would he now consider as a matter of urgency that the industries excluded from the programme should be included in the intersts of getting more people back to work?

Consideration has been given to the question of the inclusion of the construction industry but it has been decided that the programme could not be appropriately extended to that industry for the reason that it would not be possible to provide satisfactory and adequate safeguards against possible frauds. The question of the inclusion of the service sector has also been examined. It would not have been possible to extend the scope of the programme to all sectors of the economy and, accordingly, the programme was confined to those industries hardest hit by recession. In addition the service sector has a somewhat seasonal employment element and payment of premiums might, it was considered, involve subsidisation of normal seasonal increases which it was wished to avoid.

In view of the fact that the increase in the number of unemployed workers in the building and construction industry over the past two years is 99.7 per cent, would the Minister not think that now is the correct time to include them in this scheme?

I have answered the factual question as best I can. I do not think that, in the absence of the responsible Minister, I would be justified in attempting to answer policy questions not falling within the factual brief before me.

Will the Minister agree that his original reply will not be much of a consolation to the building workers?

My function here is to give factual answers to Deputies' questions. They can judge themselves the merits of the replies. Deputies are dissatisfied with the figure of 6,000 employees returned to full-time employment with the aid of the programme. We could wish it was more, but there is reason for a certain degree of satisfaction even with that figure. It shows that the concept introduced by the Government was a well-founded one.

If the Minister for Labour were in the House I would ask your permission, Sir, to raise this matter on the adjournment. I realise the futility of that in the Minister's absence. With your permission I should like to raise it next week possibly. Finally, does the Minister regard the achievement of 60 per cent of the target in an extended period as being an adequate exercise by the Government on behalf of the unemployed?

We regard it as a useful exercise and there are 6,000 people at least who would agree with that view.

That is not enough.

I did not say it was.

Deputy Fitzgerald has indicated that he wishes to raise this matter on the adjournment. He can seek to raise the matter at the appropriate time and I will then communicate with him.