asked the Minister for Labour if he will direct the National Manpower Service to prepare and establish a national centralised register of unemployed people from its own present registers and from the Department of Social Welfare's unemployment benefits and assistance sections; if he will ensure that all future applicants for jobs, irrespective of age or experience, will have to register with the National Manpower Service and after the necessary assessment, unemployed people would be (1) placed in jobs if possible, (2) referred to AnCO for the necessary training, (3) referred to the Youth Employment Agency for temporary youth work, (4) referred to the Department of Social Welfare for the payment of unemployment assistance or benefits; and if he will make a statement on the entire unemployment registration situation at the present time.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - National Unemployed Register.
Close liaison is maintained between the National Manpower Service and the employment exchanges/offices of the Department of Social Welfare. All persons under 25 years of age claiming unemployment compensation payments are automatically referred for registration with the NMS and it is intended that the over-25 age group will also be registered in due course. Many of the over-25 age group register at present of their own volition.
Registration for employment with the National Manpower Service is not compulsory and it would not be practicable or desirable to insist that all applicants for jobs register with the service. Neither are employers obliged to notify vacancies to the NMS. Most employers recruit staff directly and many job seekers and job changers obtain their employment through their own efforts.
Persons registered with the service who are unemployed at the time of registration are assessed by placement staff and every effort is made in the first instance to help them secure employment. Persons not placed are considered for suitable training or other opportunities; if necessary, advice and occupational guidance are provided.
Arrangements for consideration of applications for payment of unemployment compensation benefits are governed by the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act, 1981, and any changes in procedures in that regard would require amending legislation, which would be a matter for the Minister for Social Welfare.
The possibilities of further developing liaison in the matter of registration arrangements between the National Manpower Service, the Department of Social Welfare and other agencies concerned with employment, training etc. are under active consideration at present. The Deputy, through his membership of the Committee on Public Expenditure, will be familiar with the investigations of that committee into the arrangements for recruitment of staff to the public service, including the possible establishment of a centralised agency for registration and recruitment purposes. The establishment of a centralised register would give rise to a large variety of legal, technical and administrative problems but it is an issue which will be given attention in the further consideration of the whole matter.
I thank the Minister for his lengthy reply. I am sure the Minister will agree that the biggest problem at present confronting this country is unemployment, that we are in a situation in which, because of the atmosphere and problems of our time, people leaving school or leaving jobs have no alternative but to register with the Department of Social Welfare and that we must now create a situation in which at least the first place a person will go——
A question, please, Deputy.
I am asking the Minister if he agrees with what I am saying——
A Deputy could read from a newspaper and ask a Minister if he agreed——
If you will allow me an opportunity, a Cheann Comhairle, I want to be as fair as possible to the Minister in asking the question. Would the Minister agree that we must create a situation, a system, indeed provide an opportunity for people so that the first thing they will do is seek a job? Furthermore, would the Minister agree that the National Manpower Service is the agency most suited to register people for jobs and is now equipped to place them in jobs and, if necessary, to refer them for further training? Furthermore, would the Minister agree that over £250,000 was paid out in 1983 as a result of falsification of unemployment applications——
It is not permissible to make a long statement and ask the Minister if he agrees with it. That really is not a question; at best it is giving information rather than seeking it. The Deputy must ask a question in order to seek information and not just put some views he may have on the record.
Would the Minister agree that, in view of the present unemployment situation, it is vital that the Government take immediate action to set up a centralised register of employable people who are unemployed in order to alleviate the terrible crisis obtaining and to give direction to both employers and people seeking employment as to the proper way to go about it?
Certainly I agree with the sentiment and spirit of what the Deputy has raised in his supplementary question. I might refer him to the answers given yesterday in relation to the co-ordination exercise in which the Minister of State, Deputy George Birmingham, is involved. I do not want to pre-empt the outcome of that exercise, but certainly I personally would see a central role for the National Manpower Service in that exercise so that people do not find themselves going in different directions seeking employment. There is some merit in the idea of a centralised agency but, beyond that, I am not in a position now to give any definitive or firm answers to the question the Deputy has raised.
Would the Minister agree that at present a person can have three different numbers? If he is employed he has a PRSI number. Those receiving dole have another number and if they are receiving unemployment benefit they have a third number. If registered with the National Manpower Service they have a fourth number. Would the Minister agree that the time is now opportune to control this situation and to know exactly the position within the job market, whether people are drawing unemployment benefit or assistance, are seeking a job or have a job, and that it is time that the National Manpower Service were in control of the situation?
I would be broadly in agreement with what the Deputy is saying.
I wish to raise the subject matter of Question No. 1 on the Adjournment.
The Chair will communicate with Deputy Wilson.