Adjournment Debate. - Unemployment Survey.

I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, for his attendance on this matter. It arises from the findings of a recent survey carried out in Cork city which demonstrate that unemployment figures have risen by 2 per cent in the past year. The survey in question was most comprehensive. The research is based on figures supplied by the Central Statistics Office and the work was carried out by a most respected and professional social researcher, Emer O'Sullivan.

The survey also shows that unemployment in Cork has increased constantly in the years 1994, 1995 and 1996. That this should be happening is quite shocking. The Government constantly tells us that there is great growth in the economy with new jobs being created all over the place. What is even more shocking, however, is that this Government, on its own admission, is totally unaware of the situation in Cork.

I raised this matter in my contribution on the Finance Bill last week. It fell on deaf ears. I raised it again yesterday in the debate on the Irish Steel Bill. In his response the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, said:

I do not propose to comment on the survey in Deputy Quill's constituency to which she has referred. I have not seen it and I am not questioning it. I would like to see it.

The Minister of State went on to say: "if it is true". It is true and I have asked the researcher to forward a copy of the survey to the office of the Minister of State. It is fair that he should see the full findings.

I am appalled that the Minister of State has not seen the survey. He sits at Cabinet so if he has not seen it, it is obvious the matter has not been brought to the notice of Cabinet. The Government does not know about unemployment in Cork city, north and south. This revelation will be a devastating blow to Cork. That the already high unemployment situation is getting worse on an annual basis is bad enough. However, that the Government knows nothing about it is horrendous. The findings of the survey were published inThe Examiner on 12 March 1996. I have brought a copy of that newspaper to the Chamber to give to the Minister of State so that he can bring it to the notice of Cabinet.

The parties in Government are well represented in Cork city. They have no fewer than five Deputies in the two constituencies. Can it be that none of these Deputies has raised this issue with their Ministers? The people of Cork city can ill afford such complacency on the part of the Government. I warn the Government that the matter must be tackled. If jobs were being lost and unemployment was rising at the same rate in a neighbouring county, the Cabinet Minister for that county would be sitting on the IDA.

The Minister of State knows the county to which I am referring. The Cabinet Minister in question would sit on the IDA and there would be results which would be announced with great fanfare in the media.

I accept that the Government does not create jobs. However, it can create the conditions that lead to job creation. For a start, the Government could ensure that work proceeds immediately on the Blackpool bypass. I have raised this issue repeatedly with the Minister for the Environment. That single measure would lead to the type of investment that would create jobs. Moreover, it would enable the IDA to market the northside of the city with some measure of success. There is a number of other key measures the Government could take and one of them is the policy my party is constantly advocating — tax reform. We tax work as if it was a luxury.

Unemployment is the single most important political issue facing this country. It is the battleground on which the next election will be fought. I put the Government on notice that I will continue to raise this issue on behalf of my city and constituency until I see positive results.

Deputy Quill adverted to the debate on the Irish Steel Bill yesterday and she accurately quoted my comments. I hope she will accept that I cannot be expected to comment on a survey that I have not seen and the methodology of which is unknown to me, especially since it appears to conflict with my official information. I did not say that Government Deputies did not bring to my attention the report inThe Examiner and the fact that this survey was featured, although not the methodology and the detail of the survey. As I said to Deputy Quill yesterday, I look forward to getting a copy of the survey and checking the methodology applied. I remind the Deputy of the steps the Government took to enhance the employment opportunities of unemployed persons in Cork city and nationally.

On the national level I draw attention to the announcement this afternoon from Japan by my ministerial colleague, Deputy Richard Bruton, of 250 jobs for Killarney and my announcement of 100 jobs at the City West Business Park on the Naas Road.

I remind the Minister at this early stage that he has five minutes to reply. Under Standing Orders a strict time allocation applies to the Adjournment debate.

I will be in Cork on Saturday to discuss the serious issue Deputy Quill raised. I draw her attention to the fact that the start-up phase of the local employment service in Cork is well under way. I understand the service will be fully operational in the area by the end of May. This service is specifically geared towards helping those who traditionally have had most difficulty in finding jobs, in particular, the long-term unemployed. In an area, such as Cork city, where there is such a high incidence of long-term unemployment, 46.3 per cent or approximately 5,000 of the total, one-fifth of the labour force are unemployed, the LES will have particular relevance.

A priority of the LES plan for Cork city will be long-term unemployment among males, of whom an estimated 52 per cent or approximately 4,000 are out of work for a year or more and 17 per cent or approximately 1,300 aged 35 or more are out of paid employment for three or more years.

The LES will not be only a guidance and counselling service. It is a practical client-centred, career path planning and work placement service for the unemployed person and a professional placement service for employers. In time it will be of real assistance in helping long-term unemployed persons in Cork to have a greater degree of success in competing for jobs than has been the case up to now.

In addition, the series of measures announced in the budget this year should make a substantial contribution to increasing the opportunities available to unemployed people in line with the Government's goal of full employment. For example, the part-time integration option under the community employment scheme was introduced as and from 15 April. The pilot whole time jobs option will come into operation on 1 July and will provide 1,000 additional opportunities for long-term unemployed people in areas of high unemployment in the cities of Cork, Limerick and Dublin.

The planned start-up date for Jobstart and Workplace is May 1996. FÁS as part of its day to day operational responsibility for both of these programmes has prepared a design brief, the objectives of which are to inform the target audiences the terms and conditions of each programme; to highlight the benefits of each programme to their primary target audiences; to promote the programmes to employers as being worthwhile measures for their company; and to present all information and material in a simple, user-friendly manner.

Discussions are ongoing between my Department and FÁS, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the Irish National Organisation for the Unemployed and IBEC on the final details of these programmes. I hope these will be completed very shortly. The programmes will be launched in May. This is earlier than the projected date of 1 July originally proposed.

Ongoing discussions are also taking place between my Department, FÁS and the Department of Social Welfare regarding the implementation of initiatives which will provide opportunities for 500 young unemployed people at any one time. It is intended that the programme will apply for those 18 to 19 year olds who are six months on the live register. The measures will include a youth progression programme for each individual designed to encourage young people into the labour market and to prevent them from drifting into prolonged dependence on the live register.

In the strategy paper on the labour market,Growing and Sharing our Employment, launched last week, my ministerial colleague, Deputy Bruton, sets out full employment as the ultimate goal of Government.

While this clearly can only be achieved over time, its firm establishment gives us two clear overall objectives: to set a policy framework to increase employment and the employment intensity of growth; and to bring back into the mainstream of the labour market those who are currently excluded. By adopting this goal of full employment, the stages we must achieve become clear.

The transition from school to work must be improved so that young people do not drift into long-term unemployment before they have even had an opportunity to find their feet in the labour market. In this area the Government is currently developing a youth progression programme aimed at 18 to 19 years olds to offer them intensive support before they become long-term unemployed.

The escape probabilities from unemployment must be very much improved in order to end the cycle of social exclusion through unemployment. Measures taken in the most recent budget have considerably improved the returns from work and I am anxious that this improvement should be maintained for the future. An effort must be made to improve the flows on to and off the live register to tackle the scourge of long-term unemployment. We know now that the trickle-down effect does not work. Economic growth alone is not sufficient to give the long-term unemployed an equitable opportunity to find work.

Undoubtedly we have enjoyed very significant economic success over the first half of this decade and this has translated into real jobs; 4 per cent jobs growth or 49,000 net additional jobs in the year to April 1995 alone, with every indication of equal success this year. Our employment intensity of growth now matches the US and is well ahead of the European Union average. One of our great strengths in building enterprises has been our well-educated and increasingly confident workforce.

In Government we are shaping a strong jobs economy by adopting a range of policies to support innovation and to facilitate employment growth. However, the strong annual growth of 1.3 per cent or more in our labour force means that we still have a surplus labour supply. Those who already have a labour market disadvantage, most often the long-term unemployed, are still not benefiting from the new jobs being created.