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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 24 Apr 1991

Vol. 407 No. 4

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Census of Population Staff.

Jim Higgins


6 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach if he is satisfied with the selection process for the employment of supervisors and enumerators for the present census of population; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that numerous candidates interviewed were not notified of the results of their interviews; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

All of the temporary posts were advertised in the press. They were also advertised in the local employment offices of the Department of Social Welfare to encourage suitable persons on the live register to apply. The advertisements indicated that preference would be given to persons who were not in paid employment.

Senior CSO staff either conducted or chaired the interview boards which selected the supervisory grades. The temporary supervisors in turn interviewed applicants for the enumerator posts. The CSO made the enumerator appointments following detailed examination of the returns from the various interview boards.

Appointment to the various temporary field posts was on the basis of open competitive interview, subject to location constraints, with preference being given to persons not in paid employment. These procedures were approved in advance and I am perfectly satisfied with the operation of the selection process.

Is the Minister aware that numerous applicants, many of them with statistical experience, were not aware that their applications had been unsuccessful until such time as the enumerator called to their doors with their census forms?

There were 15,200 applications for the 3,540 temporary posts, including 334 supervisory posts and 3,206 enumerator posts. Since previous experience indicated that a significant number of persons would decline the job offers it was decided not to notify unsuccessful applicants until the posts were filled. This was in keeping with normal practice in previous census returns.

Will the Minister acknowledge that it is bad practice, not to mention downright discourtesy, not to inform a person who applies for a position that is advertised in the public press that the application is unsuccessful? This was not done in this case, and it is becoming increasing prevalent in public and private companies. It is something that should be stamped out and companies should be encouraged to refrain from this practice.

I have indicated the reasons for the delay in replying to these people. In the case of the supervisory posts the letters of notification to unsuccessful candidates were issued within a week of the appointment of the successful candidates. The 3,206 enumerator appointments were completed by about 22 March and their training commenced on 25 March. It was critical for the success of the census to supply them with all the necessary census material, including laminated personalised ID cards and so on. Accordingly, it was not possible to notify the unsuccessful applicants until the period 11 April to 19 April, about 14 to 17 days after the appointments. As I indicated, it was critical for the success of the census that all the appointments be filled. Previous experience had shown that many applicants declined the post when offered. It was, therefore, unfortunately inevitable that there would be a delay in notifying unsuccessful candidates. This is not something new; it has happened on many occasions previously. If there is any way of overcoming this problem we will certainly be glad to consider it.

What percentage of those employed were up to then unemployed?

Approximately 20 per cent.

Is the Minister satisfied that that is a sufficient percentage given the level of unemployment in the country at present?

We are having an extension of this question.

In placing the advertisements it was agreed with the Department of Labour and the Employment Equality Agency that advertisements would indicate a preference for those on the live register. Every attempt was made, following interviews, to appoint those who were not in paid employment. Certain qualifications were required for appointment and where those qualifications were available preference was given to those on the live register.

Is the Minister defending a situation whereby the State is not in a position to notify thousands of applicants for jobs that they have not succeeded? Is he defending the inability to notify people, which could be done by the Minister of State's office or any other office in the country?

I was surprised to hear that the census forms had actually been handed out in some instances before the unsuccessful applicants learned that they had not been successful. As I said, letters were issued within 14 to 17 days of the appointments. We all agree that as a matter of courtesy unsuccessful candidates should be notified. In these particular circumstances I am sure the Deputy will appreciate there were certain matters involved but every attempt was made to notify the unsuccessful applicants as quickly as possible.