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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 14 Nov 1996

Vol. 471 No. 6

NESF Report on Long-Term Unemployment Initiatives: Statements.

As the Government's representative on the National Economic and Social Forum, I very much welcome its pioneering No. 4 report aimed at ending long-term unemployment. It was unanimously agreed by the forum which comprises Members of this and the other House, the traditional social partners, unemployed people and others outside the traditional social consensus and under-represented in the paid labour force. The forum, which is broadly representative and which has given a voice to the unemployed, the disadvantaged, women's groups and others, has come up with a good programme aimed at ending long-term unemployment which has shaped Government policy and thinking in this area. As a result of that report a commitment was made to immediately set up a local employment service and a task force on long-term unemployment. That task force submitted two reports to Government, the first of which deals with the setting up of the local employment service. Work is proceeding on putting that service in place in 14 areas, the 12 original partnership areas as well as Kildare and Clare. Based on experience in those areas, the Government intends to set up the programme on a nationwide basis as soon as the local employment service is fully established.

The second report of the task force on long-term unemployment recommended changes to the community employment scheme to focus it better on the needs of the long-term unemployed. The task force analysed the differences on the live register between those considered to be reasonably likely to get a job with a small degree of help and those who need more intensive support to get work. Changes were proposed in the community employment scheme such as the introduction of the integration option which would cater for those who have been unemployed for a year or more and who would be considered, with a year's work experience on community employment, to have a reasonable chance of getting work.

The community employment scheme was revamped to put greater emphasis on training of participants and quality work experience. The proposal that one quarter of the places on community employment be reserved for people who have been long-term unemployed, for three years or more, is being put into effect. Under a new pilot scheme there are 1,000 places on offer to the very long-term unemployed, people aged over 35 years who have been unemployed for three years or more and whose possibilities of getting work are extremely limited, people at the end of the queue for employment.

The National Economic and Social Forum welcomes the initiative in setting up the local employment service, the revamping of community employment and the particular focus on the long-term unemployed. I am glad that not only are we creating jobs at a record level — 93,000 new jobs were created in the past two years, the highest level in the history of the State — but the emphasis on tackling long-term unemployment is beginning to pay off. In the year 1994-95, the latest year for which detailed figures are available, with an increase in total jobs of 53,000, there was a reduction of 34,000 in the number out of work. Of those 34,000 jobs, 25,000 went to the long-term unemployed and 9,000 to the short-term unemployed, those unemployed for less than a year. It is interesting to give a disaggregation of those figures. In the year 1994-95 a greater number of jobs went to people who had been out of work for more than two years than to those who had been out of work for between one and two years.

The forum indicated that to address the problem of long-term unemployment it is not sufficient to focus on the issues of economic growth, interest rates and so on. While those factors help to create extra jobs in the economy, the jobs will not necessarily go to the long-term unemployed unless we address the specific problems, handicaps and obstacles facing those people. For example, individuals who have been out of work for some time lose heart and hope. After a period of looking for jobs and finding themselves at the back of the queue, many people no longer believe in themselves and, therefore, it is very difficult for an employer to believe in them. In some cases whole communities lose hope and young people in those communities whose parents do not have a job wonder whether it is worth while staying on at school. Those issues need to be addressed in tackling long-term unemployment.

We must also address issues such as lack of education and training. The long-term unemployed disproportionately include those who had an incomplete education or whose skills are obsolete. Some 74 per cent of long-term unemployed people left school with no qualifications or with minimal qualifications.

In order to address the handicaps facing the long-term unemployed the Government is engaged, through the local employment service, in a policy of turning the traditional pattern on its head of trying to fit the unemployed person into the service on offer. The local employment service is a counselling, training, education and placement service, tailored to the needs of the unemployed person. There is need to offer people an upgrading of skills by way of compensatory education.

There is also need to ensure a job placement service modelled on successful initiatives such as the Job Centre in Ballymun and Contact Point in Coolock. The adoption of a partnership approach at local level, involving employers, unemployment centres and the trade union movement, which concentrates on the skills and potential of the long-term unemployed, offers a bridge back into the world of work in that employers offer vacancies to people coming out of the local job centre or employment service. That model, which was pioneered in Ballymun and Coolock, is proposed by the local employment service in the 14 partnership areas throughout the country. The service is working to put in place a tailored response to the problems faced by individuals.

When I drew up the national plan I laid particular emphasis on rebuilding the economic potential of unemployment black spots. The local development programme, which has been extended to 33 areas selected on the basis of criteria supplied by the Combat Poverty Agency as being the most disadvantaged communities in the country, places major emphasis on rebuilding the economic potential, tackling community problems and restoring hope in those communities.

In the education area the Minister, Deputy Bhreathnach, has directed an unprecedented amount of resources to schools in disadvantaged areas and to remedial education. She set up the Head Start Programme for pre-school education in disadvantaged areas. This year the demographic dividend has been devoted almost exclusively to the Breaking the Cycle initiative to ensure that young people in disadvantaged communities can get help to overcome the education and other disadvantages which would otherwise make them more likely to become today's early school leavers and tomorrow's long-term unemployed.

Other initiatives are in place to address the problem of early school leaving and lessons being learned through the Youthstart, HORIZON and other programmes are being mainstreamed into the school system. The retention rate for young people in second level education is increasing and we are all aware of the strong links between lack of education and long-term unemployment. Identifying people at an early age is an important part of the programme to address long-term unemployment.

We also have in place a series of programmes designed to deal with the disincentives which may face those moving out of unemployment into the world of work and to ensure that long-term unemployed people are financially in a position to take up job opportunities becoming available to them through various policies and in a rising economy. In the past three years there has been a concentration on tax relief for low paid workers in marked contrast to the emphasis on tax relief for high earners during the Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats Administration. It is by reducing the tax, PRSI and levy burdens on the low paid we will address the margin between being unemployed and moving into employment. That is particularly important and is paying off.

The back to work allowance scheme is in operation and 17,000 places are now available. The scheme allows people to take three-quarters of their previous dole money in year one, half in year two and a quarter in year three tax free if they move either in an entrepreneurial capacity by creating a job, as Deputy Harney would like, or into the private sector. That scheme is successful and there is a steady demand for it. I am aware of its success in helping people who have been out of work for a long time get back into the workforce.

Changes have been made in the health system so that a person who has been unemployed for three years can keep his medical card for three years after taking up a job.

They cannot get medical cards. It is in complete chaos.

We are ensuring also that people can retain child benefit payments for three months after taking up work before the family income supplement comes into place. In successive budgets we have placed emphasis on improving family income supplement because it is by paying benefits to people in work, particularly those with limited earning capacity, that we ensure it pays to take up employment. In all of these measures there is a concentration on the obstacles and difficulties facing the long-term unemployed.

When I was first elected to this House and worked in the Department of Finance the official attitude, generally speaking, was that if the economy is going well it will benefit the long-term unemployed. We all know from experience, research and from working with people who are long-term unemployed that economic policies alone will not solve the problem of long-term unemployment. Something extra is required and those additional measures are being implemented. The Government is guided in that regard by the opinions of the National Economic and Social Forum and that is recognised in the forum's opinion number three.

I would be the first to say we have not finished the job and much more needs to be done in this area. We have been at pains to ensure the local employment service operates efficiently as it has been disappointingly slow as Deputy O'Rourke said, in getting off the ground. I would prefer to have a local employment service that works effectively rather than one put in place in such haste it does not work. As we learn the lessons from establishing the local employment service in the first 14 areas, it will become easier to ensure it is established effectively on a nationwide basis as recommended by the National Economic and Social Forum. In its opinion number three the forum drew attention to the need for more quality work experience and training. The Government accepts that recommendation.

The forum raised the issue of the rate for the job. Deputies will be aware that community employment is paid on a benefits plus basis. The new pilot whole time jobs option, which is directed at people over 35 who have been unemployed for more than five years, the most disadvantaged in the labour market, will be paid on a rate for the job basis. The CORI scheme which has operated since June 1994 is due for evaluation in June 1997. That scheme has operated on a rate for the job basis within the same type of budget as that provided for community employment. There are different views on which scheme is the more appropriate, a benefits plus based scheme or a scheme where people get their social welfare payments plus an additional amount which forms the community employment rate.

If we were to move to "rate for the job" on the basis of half time jobs, some people currently on community employment, including parents of families, could lose out financially; it would not be worth their while taking up a community employment place. That is an issue of concern to the Government because the children of today's unemployed are more likely to be the unemployed of tomorrow. We must ensure that parents are encouraged to take up job options which will help to build a bridge back to the world of work. The basis on which we move forward, or whether we continue to move forward on a dual basis as is currently the case, will be examined in the evaluation of the CORI scheme.

There is ongoing evaluation of the community employment scheme and this issue, on which the forum holds a particular view, will remain on the table for discussion in the light of the evidence of which is more successful in terms of both attracting long-term unemployed people, particularly those with families, on to community employment programmes, and the type of job experience. In the CORI schemes, for example, some people earn their money by working ten hours per week while others may earn theirs by working 20 hours a week. That can create internal tensions. This issue will have to be examined so that we can determine which is the best method. The Government does not have any a priori views on this matter but there has not been a shortage of people presenting themselves for community employment places on the basis of the current rate for the job.

The forum referred also to the potential of the social economy and work is under way in the Department of Enterprise and Employment on this. The community employment scheme would be regarded as the biggest single intervention in the social economy but work is also under way through the county enterprise boards in relation to this.

The forum drew attention to the need to co-ordinate the pilot whole time jobs option and that is being taken on board. The division of the CE options, 25 per cent and 75 per cent between the short-term and long-term unemployed, is supported by the forum also.

Regarding the status of working conditions for participants, the Government proceeded, on the recommendation of the forum, with the class A contribution for community employment workers. Members of the forum had strong views on this issue. I have mixed views on it and I am aware it is causing some difficulties on the ground. The recruitment subsidy for employers has now been implemented through the new Jobstart scheme. It has been slow to take off but a publicity campaign is under way. Deputy O'Rourke will know I launched this scheme in Athlone recently and spoke to employers about it. Employers also spoke to me about having recruited FÁS trainees under the Jobstart scheme and being pleased with the outcome.

The forum's report also addresses the area of youth unemployment. It is now working on a report on early school leavers and youth unemployment because there is a link between the two. Better education funding is often the best policy for tackling unemployment. That is being done through heavy investment in schools in disadvantaged areas, by targeting of resources at those children who may have little help or few books at home and who are least likely to benefit from their education unless they are given targeted and special help. Emphasis will be placed by the home-school liaison scheme on involving the family because it is constitutionally the primary and natural educator of children. Involving the family in the education process is extremely important. That service has been developed and expanded. Using the demographic dividend arising from falling numbers in education to target resources at disadvantaged areas is extremely important.

The forum makes a number of specific recommendations for the local employment service and these are being adopted by the policy unit in my Department. For example, the recommendation on representation of the voluntary sector on the monitoring group has been adopted.

On unemployment statistics, a subject the forum will return to when it holds a plenary session on the subject, we in this House know how unsatisfactory the live register has been. That has been shown in the survey carried out at the same time as the labour force survey which showed a discrepancy between the latter's figures and the live register's. There is a concern that certain categories are not measured by the live register, for example, women who are actively seeking work and who may not qualify for credits or benefits. They may be under-recorded. We have a degree of over-recording and under-recording on the live register. The labour force survey has much detailed information which allows useful figures on unemployment to be constructed. This allows us to get a more accurate picture of who is actively seeking work and to form pools of workers for recruitment by employers. We must do more on that and on regular tracking because the labour force survey, our most accurate measure, is only available on an annual basis. However, the quarterly labour force surveys have now been implemented and we will begin to get that information on a more regular basis from the new year. This will help to accurately track something extremely important.

Unemployment is an Irish and European problem. Some 18 million people are unemployed in Europe. Earlier this week in County Clare. I attended the Conference of the European Federation of Unemployed Organisations. Half of Europe's unemployed are long-term unemployed. This is a matter we are highlighting during our Presidency. I held my informal Social Affairs Council in July on the theme of long-term unemployment. I listened with great interest to what was said and the measures taken in different countries in moving towards a more active labour market policy. For example, there are successful job sharing and job rotation schemes in Belgium and Denmark and they are also being implemented in Sweden and Finland. I will have some proposals in this area in the future. The other European countries were also interested in turn in what we are doing in our area partnerships, or "territorial pacts" in Euro jargon. This is an area which will be discussed again at the Dublin summit. We have put long-term unemployment at the forefront of the domestic agenda and European agendas.

The rising tide does not lift all boats. A range of additional policy measures is needed to address the specific problems and issues of long-term unemployment. Those are being implemented but what is in place is not and cannot be the last word. We must always be open to new ideas, to experiences elsewhere and to see what more we can do to tackle the problem of long-term unemployment and our unemployment blackspots.

I have made this a personal priority in both my jobs in the Departments of Finance and Enterprise and Employment and as the Government representative on the National Economic and Social Forum. I welcome the fact that Government policies are being shaped by the input of the unemployed organisations, the Congress of Unemployed Centres and the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed. There is continuous feedback between the unemployed, Members of both Houses, who deal with the long-term unemployment problem in their clinics and communities, and the social partners, who can do much to remedy the problem. That partnership, through the National Economic and Social Forum, is fruitful. It has a voice to which the Government listens and on whose recommendations this and the previous Governments have been quick to act.

I am glad to discuss the issue of long-term unemployment and I thank the Minister for giving me the opportunity. When I was invited to the forum some months ago I said discussion of its reports should become a feature of Dáil debating and I am appreciative that this has been done. What I say is not against the Minister or her Department but about the disgraceful neglect of the NESF. The rosy picture the Minister has painted is not an accurate representation. However, I know from my experience as a Minister that the best foot must be put forward, so I do not fault the Minister for doing so.

I have the figures.

I have the figures too. I did not interrupt the Minister once except on the issue of medical cards about which I have a tale to tell. The Minister must have never sat in a clinic with a long-term unemployed person who has returned to work and has failed to get a medical card.

I am glad we are having the debate. The latest live register figures show that the number of long-term unemployed is 3,500 higher. It gives me no joy to say that Ireland continues to have the greatest number of long-term unemployed in the OECD. The Minister says the job is not yet finished. I say the job has not yet been started. I do not know how we can utter a paean of praise to a country with the highest rate of long-term unemployment in the OECD. We may have the highest rate of economic growth but we have the highest rate of long-term unemployment. That is a paradox which has not been explained in two years of this Government.

The Minister for Finance, Deputy Quinn, and other Ministers speak ecstatically about economic growth and say we are the envy of Europe but many people are in despair. We have the largest number of long-term unemployed and the number has grown by 3,500 in the past year. It is all very fine for the well-heeled, but for people who are part of the growing number of neglected people, it is sad that we are debating an issue when we have nothing concrete to show for it.

In his budget speech the Minister for Finance said that Jobstart and Workplace would be central planks of the Government's commitment to reducing long-term unemployment. We waited with bated breath. It is now nearly the end of November and just 500 people are employed under the schemes, not the 5,000 projected. I knew that projection was a scam because the Minister for Enterprise and Employment, Mr. Richard Bruton, did not have the money to meet the target. Nineteen ninety-six was to have been the year of initiatives by the Government but only 500 are employed under the project and £1 million has been spent on advertising it. I am glad it is being advertised, but we are assailed on radio, television and in newspapers by massive advertisements, and there must be something wrong when the schemes are not being taken up. I was unable to go to Athlone but I sent my apologies. I hope the fact that only 500 are employed under these schemes will prompt action.

A year and a half ago, on 20 June 1995, during a Private Members' debate on long-term unemployment the Minister for Enterprise and Employment, Deputy Bruton, said that the Government was determined "to implement the local employment service as recommended by the NESF and as endorsed by the task force on long-term unemployment". This has not yet been fully implemented, as is noted with serious concern by the NESF in its report of April, 1996 entitled "Long-term Unemployment Initiatives". I commend NESF and its very sturdy chairperson who has not allowed herself to become part of the system. I thought NESF would be sucked into the system and to a certain extent it has; the marginalised are now muted because they feel they are part of making policy. They are very far from making policy. However, the chairperson pulls no punches. She notes in the report that the NESF is seriously concerned about the delays in establishing the local employment services even in the initial 14 designated areas, apart altogether from the Government's stated commitment to extend it to all other areas throughout the country. This body, set up by the Government to be the forum through which the views and policy making points of the long-term unemployed would emerge, has been ignored, and that fact cannot be obviated by the sweetness and light of the debate.

The NESF also lambasted a £6 million allocation in 1996 for the local employment service, stating that it would not provide any additional moneys to extend the services to other areas in the immediate future. They concluded that much more needs to be done at an accelerated pace to achieve practical and concrete results. The Government says the job has not been finished, but I say it has not started. The Minister of State, Deputy Fitzgerald, also said that the local employment service would be established throughout the country as soon as practicable, but it is a long time coming, I note the Minister of State told the INO in Ennis during the week that the numbers had come down but the number of long-term unemployed on the live register is 3,500 greater after two years under this Government.

Although some long-term unemployed may have got jobs last year, they were replaced on the long-term register by others, witness the 3,500. We tried again this morning to get the live register figures for the end of October but our researcher was told by the Central Statistics Office that it would be many months before the figures were available by about the first week in December will not be available for many months, possibly after the next election. I can only describe the manipulation of the figures as sinister. A person who is long-term unemployed does not care what survey he turns up in; he knows he has not had a job for a long time and that there is not much hope of getting one.

The Labour Party claims to be the guardian angel of the NESF, but Deputy Kemmy, in a debate on long-term unemployment in the Dáil, said reports were piling up on shelves and gathering dust. Last night in the Dáil, we were treated to what I can only describe as sanctimonious humbug, but the Labour leadership, in which I do not include the Minister of State, Deputy Fitzgerald, have long forgotten Ireland's poor. The Labour leadership may well see the poor in New York, Boston and elsewhere, but Ireland's poor are very far from their minds. Perhaps the Minister of State and the members of the Labour leadership would sign the European initiative on the long-term unemployed, the European Full Employment Appeal, which has been developed by a number of groups within the European Parliament. I was informed this morning that not one member of the Labour leadership has signed it, even though some of the Labour backbenchers have brought it to their attention. It is not good enough that it has not been signed by the leadership of the party to give expression to their supposed commitment.

Some groups have been sucked into the system even though they are doing their best to keep their criticisms sharp and focused. It would not surprise me if they felt like giving up when their points are ignored. Deputy Lynch told the Dáil that we were precipitate in putting down the June 1995 debate and that the recommendations of the NESF would be implemented. Her main job in life seems to be to cheer all the Ministers in the Dáil who are making mistakes, and when she has done that job she leaves it.

I consider myself cheerful and optimistic but I am overawed by the cheerfulness of this cheerleader extraordinaire who seems to see it as her job. I wonder if there is a perk with the job, although it does not fall into the same category as being chairman of a committee. Nevertheless, Deputy Lynch has made it her mission. She praised the Minister for Health, Deputy Noonan, as being wonderful for the women of Ireland——

He attacked the women of Ireland.

——and she praised the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Deputy Yates. Deputy Noonan attacked the women of Ireland during the hepatitis C debate. Deputy Lynch also praised the Minister for Defence, Deputy Barrett, and what he did for the Army widows. It was the most extraordinary debate I ever heard. I will be a long time in Government or in Opposition before I let myself down to that extent.

Unfortunately, I cannot stay until the Minister of State replies to the debate as I must attend a public function. However, perhaps she will tell the House when it is planned to extend the local unemployment service. The report recommends its extension countrywide. The Minister of State said it is better to hasten slowly and do it in proper order, festina lente, but if a person is long-term unemployed, will he or she care for proper order? They want a job and every help in getting a job.

There is a poignant aspect to statements by the Minister for Finance, Deputy Quinn, and other Minister about our massive growth and economic boom. I hold my constituency clinics on Saturdays and over a period of about six hours I deal with about 80 people on the telephone and in person. Many of them tell me they do not understand the economic boom and do not know what the Government means in its statements. The Government's message does not reach the homes in Battery Heights, Sarsfield Square, St. Mel's Terrace and similar places whose inhabitants cannot get jobs because of the tardy pace at which the Government is supposedly tackling long-term unemployment. It is a disgrace, as is the distancing of the leadership of the Labour Party, Democratic Left and Fine Gael from the problem. They wrap themselves in surreal phrases such as "we trust one another". The electorate trusts none of them. The electorate is waiting, not in the long grass but in the short grass, to give the proper verdict on what has not been done.

Although the INOU is estimable, it does not have a countrywide structure so there is no direct representative of the long-term unemployed. We hold debates such as this and everybody says their piece. We keen and moan when the monthly figures are released but what can we do? We can spend money on extending the local employment services immediately. We can get the money in the budget and extend the scheme, and not just to six more areas, and bring proposals to the Cabinet. Its members have read the NESF report — or perhaps not, it would appear — but they are not implementing its recommendations. One in 16 new jobs goes to a long-term unemployed person. This document was welcomed when it was produced last April. After the welcome, however, there was a halt to any further work on it. It has been ignored.

The retention of medical cards was put forward as the central plank of policy. The long-term unemployed could return to work and keep their medical cards for some time. That was the carrot, but it is a shrivelled carrot. I have put down parliamentary questions on this matter to the Minister for Enterprise and Employment but he has denied responsibility. I have put the same questions to the Minister for Health who replied that the health boards are meeting to work out a formula. This is November and the scheme was announced in January. The carrot for the long-term unemployed was that they could retain their medical cards for a certain period if they returned to work. It is not working. The Minister of State, Deputy Fitzgerald, does a great deal of constituency work so she must meet such people as regularly as I do and be aware of the problem. The people who come to my clinics say they are not getting their medical cards and I do not know why.

There is something wrong with a Government whose members pass the buck. The Minister for Justice, Deputy Owen, passes it constantly and, as a result, some poor civil servant will be truncated when it is the Minister's fault. We are waiting to hear the result of an inquiry which is due to report within the next two weeks but the Minister is culpable, not the head that will be chosen following the inquiry. Or will we have an "Alice in Wonderland" situation in which it is nobody's fault but the "system"? How interesting. The system is inanimate but it appears it can be faulty.

The Minister for Enterprise and Employment says medical cards are the responsibility of the Minister for Health. The Minister for Health says the health boards are endeavouring to meet to work out a formula. However, this is November and the scheme was a central feature of the strategy to help the long-term unemployed when it was introduced in January. Do Ministers and Departments talk and communicate? Do civil servants talk? Why can it not be done? The medical card provision is not being implemented. It is a classic example of what goes on in this Government with every Minister second guessing the other.

I will recount the relevant points. The NESF forum is excellent and is excellently led but the marginalised are being muted. Perhaps that was the intention. The reports are sturdy and vigorous but they have not been implemented. I am glad the House is having this debate. It might instigate some action, although I doubt it. Since we have the largest number of long-term unemployed people in the OECD, any attempt on the part of the Government to be pleased with itself is faulty. The number of unemployed has increased by 3,500. The Jobstart and Workplace programmes which were to have 5,000 participants in 1996 have only 500 participants despite massive advertising by FÁS. The report recommended that local employment services be extended countrywide. That has not happened. The medical card "initiative" has not happened and I do not know why. I also do not know why the anticipated numbers have not participated in the Jobstart and Workplace programmes.

The net result is that Ireland is becoming an insider versus outsider society. Insiders are buoyed up by the high economic growth and by the figures spewed out at posh conferences in Kenmare and other places. I mean no disrespect to those who spoke at the conferences. People who attend such conferences go home in posh cars, comforted by figures which claim Ireland is doing brilliantly. Ireland is not doing brilliantly for the long-term unemployed. We are a show. We allow the scandal of those numbers to grow while saying, with a brazen face, that the country is doing well in economic terms. It is not doing well in economic terms if it ignores the growth of such social injustice. That injustice is the number of long-term unemployed who have no hope or objective in life. How can they have an aim? They look to the Government and public representatives to help them and we, and particularly this Government which set out with such high sounding notions, have failed them miserably and utterly.

With the permission of the House, I will give the remainder of my time to my colleague, Deputy Walsh, who has a real interest in this matter.

I compliment the authors of the NESF report. They did a great service in outlining clearly the extent of the unemployment problem and the plight of the long-term unemployed. What I find extremely difficult to understand is that the Government and Ministers directly responsible seek to ignore the problem rather than to acknowledge and address it. On questions and during the debate on social welfare I have brought this matter to the attention of the Minister for Social Welfare on several occasions but, as in many other cases, he seeks to air brush it out of existence and say it does not really exist. The other survey is far more beneficial from the Government's point of view. If we have a difficulty with the live register, we produce a survey carried out once a year or once every six months, such as the labour force survey, which shows the Government in a much better light. That is absolute nonsense and escapism.

It is clear from questions answered here that more people are now being paid long-term unemployment benefit than a year ago or two years ago. To cater for these people we must look at the whole economic model because obviously it has not worked. The figure for people unemployed long-term is 136,500. That is more than when the Minister came into Government and no amount of escapism will get away from that. Some research should be done on those figures. When I asked the Minister for Social Welfare the extent of research on those figures he said he had no idea, that it was not his job to know. The Government should think about its constitutional responsibilities to the people.

The Government got into office by chance in a situation engineered by the leader of the Labour Party. There is more about being in Government than having the trappings of power. The responsibilities of office mean one has to avail of the opportunities, the good economic growth performance, the remodelling of the national finances and the restructuring of the whole economy post 1987. One cannot rely on press conferences and spin doctors who say we have the greatest growth rate in Europe, the lowest inflation and interest rates are at an all time low. That is no good to the greater number of unemployed people.

If the Government could say it converted growth and good economic performance into real jobs and opportunities there would be a degree of hope for the long-term unemployed. That is the responsibility of the Government. Research on the long-term unemployed should be carried out to assess their level of education, backgrounds, skills and their ability to be in a position to avail of opportunities. How can we superimpose an education model based on the academic model to a great extent on people in deprived and depressed areas? Those people in deprived and depressed areas have tremendous skills, many of which are unknown in the rest of the country. We are not allowing them to use skills by providing an education system which would allow them put those skills into operation. Instead of making facilities available through the education system we abandon and neglect them. Then we wonder why they end up crowding our prisons, why they are on drugs, why they end up in neglected and abandoned housing estates and in housing schemes which are no-go areas.

On the Control of Horses Bill we debated wandering horses. The unfortunate people who ride them were berated and insulted. However, riding is a skill and we have some of the best jockeys in Europe. We have a racing apprentice school in Kildare. Why not provide more opportunities for those unfortunate people? If there was a will to do it, it would be done; we have many FÁS schemes. Some of these young people would be good at many other skills because they have good hands and could work with timber and so on. There is not the will to look at alternative opportunities for those people but if we did so we would begin to seriously tackle the problem of long-term unemployment.

Apart from the niche opportunities, indigenous industry is sorely neglected. We are fooling ourselves to a great extent if we think the growth levels are a reflection of how good the economy is doing. Our growth level tells only half the story. Much of industry here is dependent on the economic model which is based to a great extent on attracting foreign industry. We have been extremely good at doing that. Much of our exports have only a minimal indigenous content. Many of the foreign companies here boost our exports because they avail of the 10 per cent tax rate. The spin-off and the benefit to the economy and to jobs is minimal.

We have the resources to build up a truly great indigenous industry in, for example, potatoes but it is totally neglected. If anything is synonymous with Ireland it is the humble potato. Ireland is 60 per cent self-sufficient in potatoes. This means almost half of the potatoes consumed here are imported. That is a shame. There should be Government and Departmental encouragement, and resources should be put into that area. We would have another famine in many parts of the country if people had to depend on what they produce in potatoes and other vegetables. We have to depend on the economies of Cyprus and the Netherlands to feed the Irish people. We do not do ourselves justice in that regard.

In the food area, we have the BSE problem. In 1987 when the restructuring of the economy began in earnest, an office of food was established and a Ministry of Food was put in place but it was abandoned by the Rainbow Coalition. The policy is to depend on live exports, sent on the hoof to North Africa, Russia or to anyone who will take them from us. When there is instability in any of those areas one is left high and dry. The urgency of this problem has not dawned on the Government. There is one area in which there has been a tremendous growth in jobs: that of special advisers, programme managers, spin doctors and so on. These are all employed in the interests of ensuring Government decisions are implemented efficiently and effectively.

What happened in the past two months and in the past two years when Ministers went to Government and to Cabinet with a proposal? In the case of the Minister for Justice, Deputy Owen, the proposal was put, decided on favourably, and went back to the Department where it was thrown somewhere. Where are the programme managers, special advisers and spin doctors who are supposed to free up the wheels of Government and ensure that everything is done efficiently and effectively? If the labour force survey and the live register do not suit, the rules are changed. In the last few weeks, the Government decided that the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924, was not to be obeyed. It says it is not effective and it does not have to abide by it. I commend this report to the House and ask the Government to take its recommendations seriously.

These debates are useful but to a large extent statements and reports of this kind become legislative polyfillas. We usually have a debate on some Government report or other on a Thursday afternoon where everyone makes meaningful and aspirational statements, after which nothing happens. This will be the case with this issue, which has been debated before. If debates, task forces, reports, committees, consultants, programme managers and advisers could solve our unemployment problem, we would have none. The country is overwhelmed with advice, reports and recommendations in relation to job creation and unemployment.

Before we debate unemployment and long-term unemployment in particular, which is the focus of this report, we need to make a few things clear. No party has a monopoly on concern for the poor, unemployed or the marginalised. Every political party worthy of the name is concerned about all these issues. The difference is not in the extent of the concern but in how we believe the problems can be tackled. We belong to different political parties because we have a different approach, outlook and philosophy on how this country and its economy should be ordered so that more people can have an opportunity to participate in society. The reason the Minister of State and I are in two very different parties is precisely that we have a different approach. Politics is about ideas and options and general elections give the public an opportunity to choose between conflicting sets of ideas.

The Minister of State believes in State intervention and regulation. She believes in State control to a large extent and that it knows best how to spend people's money. Ireland is one of the few countries which adopts this approach. Labour parties in New Zealand and Europe have adopted a different approach. The State should have a minimalist role in our economic affairs and our life generally. As regards private morality where individuals should be allowed to make choices about their lives, equally in relation to economic matters, workers should be allowed keep more of what they earn and choose how to spend it. If others can perform a task or provide a utility, they should be allowed to do so.

The primary duty of any State is to protect its citizens, to ensure it has a fair and even-handed system of justice and that the laws are enforced across the board, without fear or favour. Our citizens, elderly and young, should not be vulnerable to criminals and in so far as any State can, it should protect them from crime and deal severely with those who commit crimes.

The State has a duty to provide a comprehensive system of education, from preschool to third level, for all its citizens. It must also provide a decent health and welfare system, to ensure money does not become the reason one gets particular medical procedures. Every citizen in the State should have access to a decent, caring and compassionate health service. Those citizens who cannot, for whatever reason, provide for themselves should be provided for by the State, not as a matter of charity but as a matter of right.

Ireland has followed the European pattern of high unemployment. We have failed miserably to provide opportunities for our citizens. There are 20 million unemployed in Europe, which is the unemployment blackspot of the world. The unemployment level is the equivalent of the population of three member states — four including Luxembourg. We do not yet know now many are unemployed in Ireland and the Minister may shed some light on this. According to the live register, there are 270,000 unemployed but the Minister said that is not a reliable figure. If it is not reliable, why are we paying unemployment benefit to 270,000 people? The labour force survey, which the Minister and the Government says is the more accurate figure, is 190,000. If that is the accurate figure, why are the taxpayers paying an extra 80,000 people unemployment benefit if they are not unemployed? The gap between those figures is so enormous that the policy imperatives are equally very different. If we do not know the exact figure we cannot really begin to address the problem in a meaningful way.

There has been recent evidence to suggest massive fraud in the social welfare system. During the past two months, 20,000 people stopped signing on. I do not think even the Minister is suggesting that 20,000 jobs were created in the last two months. They stopped signing on because they were afraid they would be caught. If we are to have a welfare system which looks after those in need on a fair and equal basis, we have to ensure that the taxpayers' resources which fund that system are concentrated on those who need it. If people are defrauding the system, they are defrauding their fellow citizens, the elderly, disabled and those who have to rely on welfare to provide for themselves and their families. These people should be rooted out.

Whether one is unemployed, a taxpayer or an employer, we all respond to the system which has been put in place. That is human nature. Our tax system encourages people to opt for it both ways — to be part of the black economy and part of the welfare system. They know before they go to work on Monday morning that they have more than £100 in their pocket. They know the chances of getting caught are probably slim and the penal levels of tax so high if they become legitimate that they are prepared to take the risk. A recent CSO analysis of the live register showed that 48 per cent of the register have been unemployed for more than a year and that 25 per cent have been unemployed for more than three years. The 48 per cent figure represents about 130,000 people and the 25 per cent represents 70,000 people.

We are told that the growth rate in the economy over the past two years has been in the region of 20 per cent. Despite that growth rate, the "Celtic Tiger", as we like to call ourselves, has not produced employment opportunities for the long-term unemployed whose number is as high now as it was two years ago. We need to focus on the effects of long-term unemployment, not just on the families in question but on the whole fabric of our society.

Earlier, when I expressed reservations about the regulations we were putting into effect to limit the pocket money of young people, the Minister chastised me and spoke about slave labour. We do not live in Dickensian times, we live in a country which has almost reached the 21st century. We do not have slave labour, but many people are enslaved in a system of long-term unemployment because of the way we order our affairs. Whole communities, our entire country, is being destroyed because of unemployment. Too many of our people, young people in particular, are growing up in households where they have never known what it is like to see somebody go out to work; the dignity of their parents, their self-esteem, their worth as human beings is destroyed. In our society, social conversation often begins with: "where do you work" or "what do you do?" Too many of our people sometimes have to lie being too ashamed to admit the truth. If ours is to be a caring, civilised society it cannot continue to assign so many of its citizens to the prospect of long-term unemployment and its consequences, including marginalisation, isolation. Many young people who leave school and have no opportunity to work may become drug addicts and criminals. There is no doubt that many will end up in trouble with the law because idle hands always find things to do.

Our society has a lot at stake when it seeks to address the question of unemployment. As politicians we must address how we can begin to make an impact, in terms of legislation and budgets, to ensure that fewer people in the future are assigned to a life of unemployment, particularly long-term unemployment.

When dealing with the regulations the Minister of State said she does not believe in Mickey Mouse jobs or Mickey Mouse wages. I know she did not have a script but I do not quite know what that means. Unlike the Minister of State I believe one is better with a lousy job than no job, that one is better on low pay than none; that is not just a soundbite, I believe that.

Does the Deputy want people to leave school at 15 and take up Mickey Mouse jobs?

When I was 15 I worked during the summer and it did me no harm. I want society to provide——

We have found young people of 15 in full-time work.

——circumstances in which if young people and their parents want them to work as lounge bar assistants at 17 years of age, say a university student, until midnight on Friday, they should be free to do so.

When I asked the Minister of State who would police the regulations I did not receive a satisfactory answer. I predict they will not be policed because the law is not policed at present. One can go into any bar in this city and find young people serving into the very late hours. The Minister knows that to be the case. All of this might be ideal in an ideal world but we do not live in an ideal world, we live in a very competitive world of globalised markets. Irish companies have to compete in those markets in terms of——

The Deputy is saying she wants people to leave school at 15 and take up Mickey Mouse jobs.

I did not interrupt the Minister of State. Irish companies must be able to compete in those markets in terms of quality and price if we are to sell our products. As we move into the 21st century, if we really want to encourage employment, the patriots will be those who create enterprises and take risks because it is through their risk-taking they provide opportunities for themselves and others. Rather than hounding those people through more and more regulation, bureaucracy and higher taxes we should seek to encourage them because the society we want to create needs more people like them.

We Irish have understood the link between tax incentives and activity. When it comes to manufacturing industry, we have a 10 per cent tax on the profits of manufacturing companies. As a result we have done extremely well in attracting very labour-intensive industries of a manufacturing kind. Although ours is one of Europe's smallest countries, when it comes to some key sectors of our economy, we have attracted 23 per cent of all mobile investment from the United States in some key manufacturing areas consequent on that 10 per cent tax rate.

Last year Irish subsidiaries of foreign companies made pre-tax profits of £4.5 billion. That means they paid approximately £450 million in tax to the Revenue Commissioners whereas, had they been paying tax at the European norm, of approximately 30 per cent, they would have paid three times more tax, or £1.5 billion rather than £450 million. That 10 per cent tax is worth £1 billion Irish pounds to those Irish subsidiaries of foreign companies. That is the main reason they remain and will continue to remain here if we are able to bring our standard rate of CPT down so that we do not have two different rates which will not be allowed within the European Union in a number of years to come.

Equally the financial services sector, where some 2,000 people now work, has been extremely successful. Profits in that sector are taxed at 10 per cent also which is the reason we have so much activity in that area.

We have used tax breaks to encourage the development of the film industry and that industry has responded very well. We have used tax breaks to designate certain urban areas for urban renewal, to designate seaside resorts for development but, when it comes to work, we have never understood the link between tax and activity, between tax and effort and tax and reward.

I want to pose some questions to the Minister. If we are talking about providing opportunities for the long-term unemployed, I must point out that initially they will obtain jobs for modest wages. Let us consider the case of a single person on a weekly wage of £150 out of which he or she will pay £26.50 in tax and PRSI in addition to which their employer must pay employers' PRSI. Out of that salary the Government will take £39. The combined tax take, including what the Government takes in terms of employers' PRSI, amounts to 26 per cent. If such a person is at present on the dole, taking into account the fact that they may be in receipt of a rent allowance if living away from home and will incur travelling costs going to work, consequent on working perhaps up to 40 hours per week, they will be £14 weekly or 35 pence an hour better off: that is the reality.

If we move up the scale to a person I would not regard as a high income earner by any standard but who earns the average industrial wage, say a single person in receipt of £300 weekly, that person in the Republic of Ireland is £16 weekly worse off than his or her counterpart in Northern Ireland. To allow their employer give them an extra £1 in take-home pay is 50 per cent more expensive in the Republic than in Northern Ireland. If at a time when our economy is growing at an annual rate of seven, eight or nine per cent we cannot apply the proceeds of that growth to reduce the burden of tax on work, we shall miss an opportunity to put a real dent in unemployment once and for all.

Of late we have heard much about the number of jobs created within our economy, two out of every three of which are part-time. Job creation is measured by, for example, in the case of a supermarket owner replacing one full-time worker with three part-time, describing that more as two new jobs. We need to re-examine how we calculate and interpret what exactly constitutes new jobs in terms of their full-time job equivalent.

The Minister of State may be surprised to hear that I agree with one comment she made — that a rising tide does not lift all boats. There is no doubt about that. We have had a rising tide for a number of years past, a very successful economy in terms of fundamentals and growth rates. As far as some people are concerned it is all boom but, when one translates that into activity on the ground, for those who are unemployed, particularly in the case of the long-term unemployed, they have not seen the benefit.

Despite the high level of unemployment in this economy, estimated by the live register to be 270,000 or by the Labour Force Survey to be 190,000 — it does not matter which figure one uses for this purpose — in the catering industry they cannot find people to take up jobs. We now have the lubricious circumstance in which I understand Spanish workers are being brought here to work in our tourism and catering industry. What does that say about our commitment to solving unemployment? Our current system of managing employment services and unemployment compensation, divided between two Government Departments, needs to be examined. The Department to which the Minister of State is attached, is at present responsible through FÁS for employment services but has no control whatever over what I would regard as payments to unemployed people.

I commend the local employment service but it is not available to all unemployed people. We need to integrate employment services with the unemployment compensation payments scheme. If unemployed people, particularly those who have been unemployed for three years or more, are not given the assistance and skills they need to help them return to the jobs market then opportunities will pass them by. The functions carried out by the Department of Social Welfare in terms of the payout of benefits to unemployed people should be integrated with the functions carried out by the Department of Social Welfare Employment through FÁS. Many workers in the two Departments work side by side with each other but the systems are not integrated. As a result there is a lack of efficiency and, more importantly, unemployed people do not get the advice they require.

The Minister referred to the famous Jobstart programme, which has become something of a joke. The Minister for Finance trumpeted the programme as a major initiative to help long-term unemployed people return to the workforce. We were told that £1 million was being provided and that 5,000 people would qualify for inclusion in the programme. One does not have to be a mathematical genius to work out that a sum in the region of £20 million per year would be required if 5,000 people qualified for inclusion in the programme at a rate of £80 per week.

The programme has not been a success and the Department recently undertook a massive advertising campaign, which included availing of prime time spots on RTÉ radio and, presumably, on local radio stations, to promote it. One does not have to tell employers about the benefits available to them and the reason so much effort has been put into advertising the programme is that it was doomed to fail before it ever started. This is why no more than 400 people have been employed under the programme.

If task forces, committees, consultants, programme managers, advisers and Government schemes could solve unemployment then we would not have a problem. However, the reality is that there are more people on Government job schemes than working in the food industry and there are more people working in job creation agencies than working in some of the traditional industries such as brewing or distilling. We have adopted a bureaucratic response to the problem of unemployment. The Culliton report recommended the adoption of a different approach and referred to the need to lower the burden of tax on work and to streamline the number of agencies delivering advice and assistance in the job creation area. Instead of this, we got the opposite. We missed a great opportunity when we adopted a bureaucratic approach to the problem.

For every ten people at work there are approximately 22 dependants. Of the ten who work, two work for the State and eight work in the private sector. For every person working in the private wealth creating sector there are three dependants. The smaller the wealth creating private sector becomes the more dependants there will be. We must ensure we do not put obstacles in place which would prevent that sector expanding. It is only by expanding that sector that we will have more money for health, welfare, education and the host of measures we would like to see implemented if the resources were there.

We must begin at the beginning and tackle unemployment, particularly long-term unemployment, by ensuring that the incentives which operate in the economy encourage employers to expand their businesses in a way which requires them to take on more workers. The more regulations, bureaucracy and tax burdens we put in their way the less we will encourage them to employ more people. Eleven per cent of those employed in the manufacturing industry are casual workers. The reason this figure has doubled over the past five years is that in a world of globalised markets people will not make long-term commitments if obstacles are put in their way.

In recent weeks three major companies — Chung Wa, Lucky Goldstar and Hyundai — decided to locate in Scotland, Wales and the United Kingdom. Each of these labour intensive companies will employ 2,000 people. They did not locate in Ireland because of the tax system and the regulations with which employers must comply. It is interesting to note that even though the cost of employment in Wales is much lower than in Ireland the take home pay and per capita income of Welsh workers is higher than that of the average Irish worker. We must learn lessons from this and ensure as we move into the next century that workers take home more of what they earn, that workers earning £300 per week do not pay the top rate of tax and that workers in Dundalk earning £300 per week are not £16 per week worse off than their counterparts across the Border in Newry. If we are to grasp in the future the opportunities we grasped in the past then we will have to adopt a different approach and a different style of politics. We need to focus on encouraging people to do things for themselves and putting in place a system of government and economic policies which bring out the best in people whether they are unemployed, workers or business people. We need to adopt a different approach from the one which proposes more schemes, task forces, tax, bureaucracy and regulations. This approach has failed and we must try the alternative.

It is mind boggling to be lectured by the Progressive Democrats and Fianna Fáil on job creation and unemployment. When Fianna Fáil was returned to power in 1977 Deputy Harney was a member of that party. The then Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, said he would resign if unemployment went over the 100,000 mark. Even though unemployment went over the 100,000 mark in 1980 Jack Lynch did not resign and Fianna Fáil did nothing about it. Between 1977 and 1979 Fianna Fáil stuffed the Civil Service and the public service with workers. During the late 1980s Ray MacSharry had to cut back on the number of people employed in these areas. It is ludicrous for people who behaved in that fashion to shed crocodile tears.

The Government is stuffing the Civil Service with workers now.

More jobs have been created by this Government than have been created by any other Government in the history of the State.

We left a good economy for the Government.

That is open to question.

The Tánaiste did not question it last night.

The former Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, said he would resign if employment went over the 100,000 mark but he did nothing about the problem.

Jack Lynch is no longer a Member of the House. The Deputy should outline his proposals.

The Deputy in possession without interruption, please.

His party got rid of him fairly fast after that but his successor proceeded in the same vein. I object to being lectured by the Progressive Democrats who are obsessed with tax cuts. God help Fianna Fáil if they go back into power with them.

The sooner the better.

If that happens I can assure the Deputy he will not be welcomed by his constituents in Sligo.

We will be in on our own.

The Progressive Democrats are only interested in swingeing tax cuts on the one hand and cuts in services on the other. They are an irresponsible party which has no interest in a caring society where there is equality. They are playing to a niche market of the wealthy and that is all they want. That does not coincide with what has been a traditional caring attitude by Fianna Fáil in past decades. I would urge Fianna Fáil to be wary.

Two issues in terms of the quality of society relate to crime and unemployment. This is the first Government that has begun to tackle those two issues seriously. The huge portfolio of proposals we have put through on crime, particularly crime relating to drugs which is responsible for approximately 80 per cent of crime, is the first serious attempt by a Government to deal with the issue. Fianna Fáil was in power for seven years from 1987 to 1994 and did little or nothing to reduce unemployment levels. The Government current strategies are dealing positively with the problem and creating new jobs at an unprecedented rate.

Deputy Harney mentioned the creation of jobs at all costs but I cannot accept that philosophy because it leaves workers open to exploitation. We must protect workers. Deputy Harney quoted the service industry which is the fastest growing industry in the country, particularly the catering sector. Yet in that sector the average hourly wage is between £2 or £3, which in this day and age is exploitation. No wonder it is difficult to find people prepared to work long hours in difficult circumstances for minimal remuneration and it is why foreign students are being recruited to work in the sector.

I congratulate the Minister of State, Deputy Fitzgerald, for her constant involvement in the work of the National Economic and Social Forum. A great amount of work has been achieved by the forum whose meetings the Minister of State has attended regularly over the past three years since it was established in 1993. I am glad to have the opportunity to discuss the contents of report No. 3 on long-term unemployment initiatives.

The forum is an initiative, as so many developments under this Government have been, to get a better focus on unemployment. Priority in its terms of reference is on unemployment and job creation. The body is comprised of Oireachtas Members, the social partners and, most important of all, people in the community who would not normally be allowed into the decision making process. These include women, the unemployed, the disadvantaged, youth, the elderly, people with disability, those with environmental interests and academics. One of the main academics involved, Mr. Seán Healy, has made a tremendous contribution through his hands-on approach to dealing with long-term unemployment. This means that all strands in society have an input into making policy on long-term unemployment.

The report welcomes the recommendations made by the Government, the measures put in place since the 1994 report, and the subsequent Government task force set up to prioritise its recommendations. Nevertheless, long-term unemployment remains stubborn. In 1995, for every 16 jobs created only one affected long-term unemployment. This area clearly requires constant monitoring, effort and radical thinking.

The Government introduced a plethora of measures in the last budget. Some 13,200 new places were provided in various schemes. The vocational training opportunities scheme was extended in addition to which we had the back to work scheme and the recruitment subsidy scheme. Work experience programmes focused on community employment to orient it towards job creation. The extension of PRSI cover to community employment participants is a major initiative and the idea of having whole time job options in selected unemployment black spots was a major development. All these developments are welcomed in the report which also recommends regular monitoring of Government initiatives and further periodic reports on the manner in which these initiatives are implemented.

In dealing with the major areas focused on in terms of the report in dealing with the problem, I will first address the local employment service. That is the key policy approach. It does not matter whether one deals with the labour force survey or the live register. What is important is to have a portfolio of people who volunteer to accept the employment service. These portfolios will then be part of the responsibility of a mediator who enters into a client relationship with the volunteers. The ratio is 125 volunteers to each mediator which is probably a little high but is recommended by the NESF. It is calculated on the basis of 125 by 800 to be appointed which would deal with 100,000 long-term unemployed, the number estimated to volunteer for the service.

Having established a relationship with the unemployed person, the mediator must also establish a relationship with the business sector employer to put together a portfolio so that potential employees can be introduced on a one to one basis. Having determined what services might be required, the local employment service can determine what education or training is necessary and having availed of local services whether in the vocational education committee, FÁS, the partnership or through a Government scheme subsidy they can then seek to get someone into employment. It is an extremely important concept. It is a key one for dealing with the long-term unemployed. The economy is burgeoning, with approximately 1,000 additional jobs being created each week, but the long-term unemployed are not benefiting proportionately. Employers are not known for their social conscience. They are interested only in operating profitable and effective businesses and are not interested in employing the long-term unemployed when there are many young people, fresh out of college and training, on the job market. The local employment service can make a radical difference to the cohort of unemployed, but to be successful mediators must be familiar with the people and businesses, whether local corner shops or large factories, in their designated areas. They must also have access to FÁS data and, if necessary, provide training and education for the people concerned.

The local employment service has been slow to get off the ground. It needs funding urgently. A total of £6 million has already been provided, but it is not enough. The NESF report recommends that £30 million should be provided to extend the service nationwide. It currently operates in only 14 selected areas. The service should be extended as quickly as possible and while a different approach will be required for rural areas, the principle will remain the same. The service should be promoted by distributing leaflets and advertising and those enthusiastically seeking work should be encouraged to participate in the scheme. Mediators should be vibrant and dynamic and deal with their portfolios in a personal and professional fashion. The service should be monitored at all times. It is the only means of dealing effectively with long-term unemployment.

Access to the community employment scheme is limited because of the way it is targeted. It should not discriminate against certain people. Lone parents are allowed to participate, but dependent spouses are not. They have the option of swapping places with their unemployed spouse, but in the majority of cases it is women who lose out in terms of access to the community employment scheme. We must address this anomaly. Everybody who is unemployed should be allowed participate in the scheme. We should not discriminate against dependent spouses.

Child care facilities are also important. It is difficult for women to enter the marketplace unless adequate nurseries and pre-school facilities are available. Parental involvement in the marketplace is important, but parents, particularly women, will be discriminated against unless the necessary child care facilities are provided.

The report deals with measures aimed at preventing young people drifting into long-term unemployment. A total of 5,000 places will be provided in the workplace for young people who have been unemployed for up to six months and at risk of drifting into long-term unemployment, and they will be allowed retain their social welfare benefits. While this is a welcome development, the five week job placement period is too limited. A more structured approach should be adopted.

The report also recommends that the youth progression programme should involve counselling, foundation skills, job-work trails, a youth employment option and a job training scheme. This area requires constant monitoring and great effort to ensure that school leavers at risk of drifting into long-term unemployment get sufficient training until job opportunities become available. There is no reason it should not be compulsory for them to register with FÁS.

The report does not deal specifically with unemployment blackspots. Areas such as Ballymun, Finglas, Ballyfermot and the north and south inner city regions should be designated enterprise zones. Employers in those areas should be given tax breaks, provided they employ a substantial number of local people.

I welcome the report and the good things it said about the Government's initiatives.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted and 20 Members being present,

It gives me great pleasure to address this important issue. I am sure the Government is delighted to listen to the debate in full and, perhaps, it might get some ideas on how to tackle what has proven to not only be an intractable problem in this country but in most countries.

There are between 150,000 and 200,000 people on the live register. People regularly shed crocodile tears for them.

Such as Fianna Fáil Deputies.

I have probably done more to create employment than most Members.

The Deputy is a representative of Fianna Fáil which presided over huge unemployment.

Acting Chairman

No interruptions please.

Perhaps the Deputy should devote his full time to it.

I have had hands-on experience of this situation. Many of the measures implemented at present will not deal with the problem. A huge number of reports have been published, but we know what the problem is. We also know that creating a scheme for 2,000 jobs here and 3,000 jobs there will not deal with the underlying problem.

I am surprised there has not been a debate in this Chamber on the integration of the tax and social welfare systems, which is a major cause of concern for the unemployed. Schemes such as Jobstart will not work because financial remuneration for creating employment in the short-term will not create long-term jobs. I do not know of any employer who would choose employees on the basis of a subsidy. Any employer, who looks to the long-term, will always choose the best employee available. Some £60 or £80 a week subsidy for a limited period will not change that choice.

Unemployment blackspots have more to do with the social conditions in those areas than anything else. However, these will not be addressed by piecemeal short-term schemes. If we are serious about unemployment, we must look at our housing policy.

We are doing that.

The Deputy did not do it when he was in Government.

I was never in Government.

Acting Chairman

The Deputy will have an opportunity to make his contribution.

We must never again build huge ghettos on the outskirts of our cities. We must tackle the problem of address discrimination. We all know there is a subtle form of discrimination against people from certain addresses which means they cannot get employment.

I want to concentrate on the tax and social welfare wedge which, with the underlying social problems, is causing unemployment. I would like to make some practical suggestions which the Government might consider because we have heard too much theory today. We will not create enough new jobs in the next three years to give full paid employment to everyone. However, we could afford to increase unemployment assistance by 40 per cent or 50 per cent by making adjustments to the tax and social welfare systems. If we increased incomes and gave 40,000 of the 180,000 unemployed people an opportunity to work, surely that would be a major achievement in three years?

The Deputy is talking theory now.

I will give practical examples of what I mean. People often come to me with opportunities for part-time employment. However, when they look at the possibility of taking this employment, they realise they will not be better off financially. This problem is caused by the system of rent allowances, the social welfare code and the tax system.

A married couple with one child came to me recently with this problem. They were in receipt of rent allowance and unemployment assistance which amounted to £146.20. One of the spouses had an opportunity to get part-time employment. We did the calculations and I advised them on what they should or should not do to increase the household income. I told them there would be no gain on the first £30 because the rent allowance would be reduced for every pound earned. There would be a gain between £31 and £59 which would increase the family household income by £22. However, I told them to be careful because if they earned another £1, the family income, which started at £146.20, would drop to £123.10 — a net loss of £23.10 — because of the way dependent spouses are treated by our system.

If a person's take home weekly income were to increase to £150, according to the manner in which this is calculated, that person's take home weekly family income would be £168. It includes an element of unemployment assistance for one spouse which, in this case, is better than family income supplement. Taking a base level income of £146, the net family income increase is £22 and zero as between £59 and £150. If a person could increase his or her weekly gross income to £230, yielding a take home pay of £200, that person's weekly family income would increase by approximately £54. That means that in regard to a large range of income, it is better for people not to take up work because the more they earn the less of that income they take home.

I am sure that is not revolutionary news to the Deputies present. Most of them are well aware of this problem and could recount a myriad of examples of this type of problem. Some people are dependent on social welfare, but if part-time work that might lead to better things is available, unless a person can secure a job paying £300 plus a week, that person has little to gain from taking up work.

Why are people taking up places under job initiative schemes?

They are only short-term schemes. I am talking about the long-term.

They are three-year contracts.

What happens after that?

They are full-time jobs now.

After that period they are back into the system. We need to change the mainframe system, not to introduce small schemes that are complex and to which limited quotas apply. People want to live in the real world. If a job is available down the road, they want to apply for it and, if successful, they want to benefit from taking it up.

People want to work. At least that is the case in Dublin.

Of course people want to work. People have been told by those on high incomes that they cannot be expected to give up 50p tax in the pound, but they will happily say that it is not unreasonable for a person on a low income to pay 120p tax on every pound over a certain level. That is the problem. How do we address it? All the fancy schemes will not address that fundamental problem. Unemployed persons should be free to take up a job and for every £1 they earn they should be able to keep a proportion of it and the lower their family incomes the higher the proportion of that £1 they should keep. That is a sensible and simple proposition.

A first and rational step towards addressing this problem would be to factor the rent allowance into the mainframe social welfare system and we could then decide to institute a new system of means testing for social welfare benefits.

The housing authority is taking that over.

Will we still operate on the basis of a pound for pound clawback?

Presumably the position will be rationalised and there will be one agency.

There will be one agency but it will still operate on the basis of a pound per pound clawback. As long as that is the case the allowance can be passed from agency to agency, but the problem will not be addressed. That has happened for years. We have passed the parcel, but nobody is willing to tackle the fundamental problem.

We also need to institute a system directed towards establishing a basic minimum income, as proposed by people like Fr. Sean Healy. Such a system would operate on the basis that everyone would have a basic minimum income taking into account rent costs and that in respect of every pound earned over that level there would be a deduction in terms of, say, social welfare income or there would be a clawback on such additional income which would ensure that a situation could not arise whereby if a person earned an extra £1 he or she could lose £30 net family income. I do not know of any families who do not try through exercising a degree of effort to increase their income.

What about the older long-term unemployment and education gaps?

I will come to that.

The market will not solve that problem.

We must take those out of the system for whom the market can provide work. That is a sensible proposition. We would then have more time and resources to target those who remain in the system and have not found work in the market.

With respect to the Deputy I probably have more experience than most of that syndrome in my area of work. I will explain to him where I am coming from in this regard. I took up a position as a co-op manager in an area of high unemployment and high emigration.

The four Deputies present all have experience.

Let us hear the Deputy in possession without interruption. There are provisions in our new regulations for Deputy Broughan to interrupt, if he wishes to do so in a formal fashion.

I worked for a co-operative until I became a Member of this House. I did not gain from the employment created. We created those jobs because we believed in what we were doing. We discovered when we moved away from a system under which people were losing money by taking up employment that it was profitable to create employment, for us as employers who had to be hard headed because we were operating in the commercial world, and for the workers, for whom the purpose of co-operative was to create employment. However, we found that the main obstacle we faced was the social welfare and tax system that applied to the low paid.

It is regrettable that the Minister for Finance is not present. I appreciate that resources are limited, but we have been told that there will be tax give-aways in next year's budget. In that regard I make a plea for a special tax give-away. At present once a person, particularly if he or she has three or four children, earns over the exemption limit, he or she faces a major problem, that of paying income tax at the rate of 40 per cent. The highest earners do not pay that rate of tax until their income reaches a certain level. Furthermore, irrespective of what one earns, the highest tax rate is 48 per cent.

It would be relatively simple in the next budget to direct resources towards areas to which everyone professes they should be directed, to increase tax exemptions, particularly as they relate to dependent children and to reduce the marginal rate of tax for the low paid from the current 40 per cent to, say, 5 per cent over the lowest rate of tax. If the lowest rate of tax were reduced to 25 per cent, the marginal tax rate could be increased to 30 per cent and if the lowest tax rate remains at 27 per cent it could be increased to 32 per cent. In that way the unemployed could be eased into the system rather than the current situation where they have hit a stone wall.

There is a good deal more I would like to say if time permitted, but I wish to refer specifically to community employment schemes. I cannot understand why the unemployed who do not have alternative employment and where there is not a waiting list for such schemes, which occurs in some rural areas particularly on the islands, are not allowed to continuously roll over in terms of their participation on such schemes. They should be allowed to continue to participate in such schemes working for their communities instead of being forced by the Government back on to the unemployment register for another period of detention before they can participate again on such schemes. There is work to be done and sufficient places should be provided on such schemes to allow those who want to participate on them to do so. By doing that the Department could direct its resources at inquiring into why some of the unemployed do not participate in such schemes. I would prefer to see a flat rate of £160 for a four day week with those with dependent children retaining entitlement to family income supplement. The introduction this year of A stamp contributions was a major step in the right direction.

These jobs should be made more attractive, for urban dwellers in particular who do not find them attractive for various reasons. One could then ask about those not taking up the scheme when one will probably find they are working and drawing social welfare payments. They, in turn, may find that it would be better not to do so. Rather than produce nice reports, express platitudes and introduce Mickey Mouse schemes we would do more for the unemployed if we took a few simple steps to tackle the tax, social welfare and rent allowance wedges.

I do not disagree fundamentally in principle with some of the reforms urged by Deputy Ó Cuív but the line taken by him and the Progressive Democrats is an indication that a harsh labour market policy will be followed, particularly if the Progressive Democrats are returned to Government. When Deputy O'Malley was in office, 100 jobs per day were being lost. This contrasts with the job creation record of the Government under which, as the Taoiseach and Tánaiste outlined in recent days, 1,000 jobs per week are being gained.

The panacea of the Progressive Democrats, echoed to some extent by Deputy Ó Cuív and others in Fianna Fáil, is that only a market-led approach will work. If one looks at the document on taxation and spending issued by Deputy Michael McDowell, one will see that this approach will only work if all of our great semi-State bodies, and parts of the public service, are sold off. In the process we would lose tens of thousands of well paid, secure jobs. That is the prospect we face if the Progressive Democrats get their hands on the levers of power after the next general election. These jobs would be replaced by low paid, non-unionised, short contract employment. We may even see Group Four, Securicor or some other security company being given a contract to provide security personnel in the precincts of the House? The tragedy is that Fianna Fáil seems to be aligned to this axis.

You will be glad to learn, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, that the Labour Party carefully tracks the speeches of our colleagues in Fianna Fáil, especially its Leader, Deputy Bertie Ahern. I have framed copies of a number of his speeches. In a speech to the Institute of Directors prior to last Christmas he said that, if returned to power with his colleagues in the Progressive Democrats, he would definitely cap and cut social welfare. Amazingly, unbeknownst to his elder brother, Noel, who in a poignant article wrote about their childhood in the Drumcondra area on the north side of the city when they cared for and looked after each other, in a speech to IBEC he said clearly that he would sell all of our major semi-State bodies, including CIE, Iarnród Éireann, Telecom Éireann, Aer Rianta, Aer Lingus and so on.

It was not as blunt or clear-cut as that.

Our colleagues in The Examiner caught the story and gave us the full details on the front page. He was referring to a major privatisation programme in the public sector.

The track record of Deputy Bertie Ahern in the constituency of Dublin Central which he has represented for 20 years does not stand up well to scrutiny when it comes to unemployment levels, social deprivation and drug related crime. One has to pose the question where has he been for that length of time since his election to this House for the first time as a young man in 1977? The same cannot be said of the father of one of the Deputies sitting opposite who made an impact on the north side of the city.

One has to question whether Deputy Ahern will lead Fianna Fáil into a disastrous coalition with the Progressive Democrats. The people would be foolish to give such a combination an overall majority in the forthcoming general election.

What is this debate about?

It is about our response to the problem of long-term unemployment.

The Deputy should stick to that subject.

Like many other Deputies, I read the report of the Assistant Secretary at the Department of Finance, Mr. Michael Tutty, on key developments in the economy in the past ten years which paints a rosy and favourable picture. Since 1987 there has been an annual growth rate of almost 5 per cent; an annual employment growth rate of almost 2 per cent; the unemployment rate has fallen from 16.8 per cent to 11.7 per cent; an annual inflation rate of about 2.7 per cent as compared with a figure of almost 5 per cent in the OECD; the general Government deficit has fallen from a rate of 8.6 per cent to 1.5 per cent while the general Government deficit-debt ratio has fallen to 76 per cent.

The fact remains, however, that we have a serious unemployment problem. It is right and proper that the House should debate this issue time and again. I applaud the National Economic and Social Forum on the outstanding work it has done in recent years and on producing this timely report on long-term unemployment initiatives. We should retain a sense of outrage and remain determined to take every conceivable measure to find a remedy.

The problem is acute in certain areas, especially the Dublin region. If one looks at the unemployment statistics, it is striking that eight of the 12 employment exchanges in the biggest unemployment black spots are located in the Dublin region where approximately 38 per cent of the long-term unemployed are to be found. The other four are also located in urban areas. Large areas of the city from the north side to Tallaght are gripped by this problem.

As other Deputies said, with social deprivation goes vicious drug-fuelled crime which has laid waste to many of these areas and made life intolerable for the population of the greater Dublin area.

It is appropriate that we retain our sense of outrage. Rosy pictures of the economy, painted in good faith by very able officials, must not influence the efforts of Deputies to improve the unemployment position, particularly in our capital city. We should continue that job with ruthless determination.

I welcome the NESF report which is timely in its attempt to monitor the major initiatives taken by the Government in recent years. I agree with Deputy Costello that the implementation of the local employment scheme is a key initiative. I am very proud — my colleague opposite will share these sentiments — that it was on the north side of Dublin, specifically under the Northside Partnership chaired by Pádraig White and directed by Ms Marian Vickers, that the local employment service scheme was piloted. The number of people placed in jobs in the past three years in the constituencies of Dublin North-East and Dublin North-Central is significant. There is positive discrimination in favour of areas of great deprivation to enable people living close to huge concentrations of industry such as Dublin Airport, who are constantly by-passed for jobs, to qualify for jobs. I congratulate the Northside Partnership on its work in that regard.

The Government is, however, dragging its heels in that only £10 million has been spent in this area, £6 million of which has been spent specifically on the local employment services in the 14 designated partnership areas. The first major report of the forum recommended that a sum of £36 million be provided, but just over one quarter of that amount has been spent on the programme. The necessary resources should be made available. The staff in the Northside Partnership are often very busy dealing with a huge number of clients. The report referred to the ideal figure as 125 people per mediator, but it is very difficult for mediators to deal with vast numbers of people.

Many of the criticisms in the report are valid and we should respond to them. For example, there should be no further delays in operating the local employment service in the 14 areas. We should ensure there is sufficient staff so that mediators, who do a very good job, are not overworked. People seeking work should be well represented on the partnership bodies which administer the local employment service. Periodic reports on the operation of the service should be made available to the House so that Deputies may comment on them. We should encourage the local employment service, FÁS and local educational bodies such as vocational education committees to interact closely to make people aware of the local employment service. The report does not refer to the fact that many people, even in my area where the service has been very successful, are still unaware of it. Deputies constantly have to refer people to the excellent mediation staff. FÁS should be required to widely publicise the service.

The report rightly pays tribute to the Government for providing an extra 13,200 places: 1,000 for VTOS, 5,000 for the back to work scheme, 1,200 for the recruitment subsidy scheme, 1,000 for the pilot wholetime jobs option and 5,000 for work experience, all of which are valuable initiatives. It is easy to deride the enormous efforts made in this regard by focusing totally on the labour market. The Ministers, Deputies Quinn and De Rossa, will address some of the matters that have been raised. The initiatives that have been taken are extremely valuable and credit should be given where it is due.

I share some of the criticisms in the report of the community employment scheme, particularly in regard to the 12 months limit. As Deputy Ó Cuív said, there is a roll-over of jobs, certainly in the Dublin region, in that some people remain in schemes for more than 12 months. It would be unacceptable that a local voluntary body that takes on a very good worker who is well known in the locality would lose that person after one, two or three years. That is a matter that must be addressed. I understand that in Germany a massive jobs initiative programme has operated since World War II. Many of our policymakers may not be aware that in the 1950s about two million people there were involved in working directly for the community, for which they were paid a certain wage. Elements such as status and conditions must be considered in operating the programme.

I share the concerns of the NESF about the voluntary sector in term of its growing dependence on these jobs. It is important that work which needs to be done in communities is well done under good conditions and that workers are granted proper status. In the Dublin area there is a great take-up of the new jobs initiative programme. In my area almost every programme is oversubscribed. Even though there are problems with social welfare and taxation, people want to work and, if given a reasonable wage, will accept jobs such as school caretaker, offering advice on local voluntary projects or whatever.

I support the report's recommendations on targeting. We are targeting the major issues of the long-term unemployed, lone parents and so on. I agree with Deputy Costello that, certainly in the Dublin region, we must provide increased resources for the major black spots, areas which experience many social problems. A sustained effort is needed by the community to deal with those problems. Perhaps the Minister for Finance will consider taxation measures which would help in that regard.

I agree with the comments about women who wish to return to work. The fact that women do not qualify for CE schemes unless they are on social welfare is a disgrace and is unconstitutional. That matter must be considered. The comments on the progression element of the programme are very welcome.

I welcome this report on employment initiatives and commend the Government for the steps it has taken. It should take on board the criticisms made by the forum, which is widely representative of all parties as well as the social partners. I hope our colleagues opposite will not wreck the social partnership, the consequences of which would be disastrous for the long-term unemployed and their families. Our first objective should be to assist those people.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Haughey.

I am sure that is agreed.

I welcome the NESF report on long-term unemployment. We are currently facing a major problem in regard to unemployed young people, particularly young tradesmen and apprentices in the workplace. Because they are not encouraged by the education system, not enough young people are coming forward to take up tool making, carpentry, joinery, block laying, plumbing, plastering, stone masonry. There is not enough emphasis in second level education on encouraging people to take up apprenticeships. I understand it is almost impossible to get a carpenter for a building job in areas of this city. If we do not train young people there is little hope for the future.

People in Dublin have told me that quite a number of the tradesmen employed in the Blanchardstown shopping centre have returned from working in England. Why can we not encourage builders to take on young apprentices? The time is fast approaching when there will no longer be any young people to do these jobs. I served my apprenticeship as a carpenter-joiner and at that time there had to be so many apprentices per number of carpenters employed. If such schemes are not brought back again we will face a major problem in this area.

Apprentices are currently recruited by employers. They spend six months in FÁS and then return to their prospective employer. They are paid by FÁS and that is a welcome step. These are excellent young lads interested in developing skills for the future. They are not involved in drugs and they do not get into trouble. They are interested in what they are doing.

There is a real shortage of apprentices in the motor industry. The Sligo FÁS centre recently lost its motor mechanic course because of a shortage of interested young people. That is a shame. Many years ago a former Member of this House and a good friend of Deputy Haughey's father, James Gallagher, encouraged industry to set up in Tubbercurry. He knew there was a need for this in the area and he brought the first tool making factory to Tubbercurry, as a result of which we have much of that type of industry in County Sligo. It is important that we pay tribute to people like James Gallagher.

The reason there are currently so many people on the live register is that they have medical cards. The difference in income between staying at home or going to work is not enough. A person who stays at home is entitled to a medical card which is valuable if one has a family. Children can avail of free school transport and medical care if they become ill. A person with a reasonably good job, however, is not entitled to a medical card. If a Minister introduced an incentive to redress that imbalance, many more people would be encouraged to take up employment.

Previous speakers in this debate have criticised the former Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, and Deputy Bertie Ahern. When I first became a Member of this House after the 1982 election, the then Taoiseach Charles Haughey's policy document, The Way Forward, was voted down in this House. That Government fell and we had a Coalition Government for a period of four years. That was the most disastrous Government this country ever had, led by Garret FitzGerald and including Deputy John Bruton as Minister for Industry and Commerce. Many excellent industries in my constituency closed down under that Government. We had a new Government in 1987 which attempted to put the country back on the road to recovery, and if it were not for Deputy Dukes's support for that minority Fianna Fáil Government it would never have recovered. Labour and Democratic Left voted down every measure but they are now in power and they are reaping the benefits.

We hear much talk in politics today about our booming economy, increased prosperity, high economic growth rates and our unprecedented business expansion. Nevertheless people want more than that. Women and children are afraid to walk our streets. Our communities are disintegrating, we have drug addiction, poverty, social exclusion and urban ghettos.

Deputy Broughan will be happy to know that Fianna Fáil believes politics should be about real people, their hopes and fears, and that the political process should address the everyday life of families, parishes and communities. The economy may be booming but in many ways our quality of life has deteriorated and a moral decline has set in. At a time when we have the resources to improve the quality of life for ordinary citizens, we should do so.

The objective of last year's budget, according to the PR people, was to tackle long-term unemployment, the buzz words at that time. Yet Deputy O'Rourke told the House this morning that Ireland has the highest rate of long-term unemployment among OECD countries. The measures introduced in last year's budget were nothing more than hype. They have not had any real impact on the problem of long-term unemployment. People should look behind the spin doctoring, examine the schemes introduced and consider whether they had any effect.

I want to be parochial and refer to the north side of Dublin. Northsiders generally hold the view that their area loses out in many ways. For example, why was the Ballymun-Dublin Airport Luas project put on hold? In some respects those of us representing that area of Dublin are to blame in that we do not lobby in a sufficiently strong manner for a better deal.

I want to draw the attention of the House to a recently established group called Nordubco which was set up under a Dublin City University initiative and the three area development partnerships — Ballymun, Finglas-Cabra and the Northside Partnership. Its role is to promote the social and economic development of north Dublin as a region and to provide a forum where a coherent vision and strategy can be developed through dialogue between the various bodies which have a role to play in the area. That is a welcome initiative. It would be welcome if all the public representatives in North Dublin could come together, lobby in a co-ordinated way and draw up plans which will impact on unemployment.

I also welcome plans to develop the Liffey docklands. The Custom House Docks Development Authority has been requested by the Government to establish a separate, broadlybased project team which, under general supervision of the Dublin Docklands Area Task Force, will initiate the work of preparing a master plan to rejuvenate the Dublin docklands area which embraces 1,000 acres of land on both sides of the river Liffey. The Riverrun consortium was appointed in September 1996 to develop this master plan. It is claimed the redevelopment of this area will breathe new life into local communities, create employment, exploit the extensive waterways for tourism and leisure activities and create a new growth area for the capital city. Local consultation has been initiated and that is a welcome development. I hope the appropriate legislation can be debated in this House as soon as possible to implement that initiative which will impact on employment on Dublin's northside as well as in Ringsend and other areas.

I draw the attention of the House to a little known report published earlier this year after being left on the shelf for some time, the report of the task force established during the TEAM Aer Lingus crisis with which Deputy Broughan and Deputy Sargent are familiar. This task force was set up to exploit employment opportunities around the airport region and the general northside area. Its report, which is very good, was eventually published by the Minister for Enterprise and Employment but insufficient action has been taken on its recommendations. Some consultation is under way on the establishment of an aviation school. It mentioned the Luas line and other needs of the northside of Dublin. The report should be re-examined and progress should be made on implementing its major recommendations.

One of the ways of dealing with long-term unemployment is to help people establish their own businesses. We should examine what help is available to those who have an idea but do not have the resources to put it into effect. Many groups give advice on how to start a business. In Dublin, the Dublin Corporation public libraries give a great deal of advice on this area. People must go to many organisations for advice and to several organisations to obtain financial help. Some rationalisation is needed. The Dublin City Enterprise Board is one source of funding and people can go to banks for advice, assistance and finance. They can also go to a business information centre, FÁS, Forbairt, the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association, the Liffey Trust, the Dublin Business Innovation Centre, Enterprise Link, First Step, Inner City Enterprise, An Bord Tráchtála, the Small Firms Association and the area partnerships. There are so many different organisations and Government Departments that rationalisation is needed so that people will know where to go. A one-stop shop for advice and assistance on how to establish a business is needed. It has not been developed and it could go a long way to tackling unemployment.

I pay tribute to the number of voluntary groups which deal with unemployment, especially long-term unemployment. In Dublin North-Central, my constituency, there is the Larkin Unemployment Centre, the Northside Centre for the Unemployed, the Northside Partnership, the Donnycarney Unemployment Action Group, the Dublin Inner City Partnership, the Coolock Development Centre, the Inner City Organisation Network, which is well-known, and the Ballybough Resource Centre, to name just a few. There is a plethora of voluntary organisations and community groups trying desperately to do something about unemployment. They should be supported. Some of them are funded by trade unions, some by national lottery grants, etc. Where a community voluntarily comes together to do something for itself, it should be supported in every way possible. It should be given a greater role in dealing with the situation at ground level because local knowledge is a valuable asset.

There has been much talk during this debate about the incentive to take up low paid unemployment. I agree with Deputy Ó Cuív that it is the kernel of the issue. There needs to be some cohesion in the taxation system, secondary benefits such as medical cards and supplementary welfare, and the social welfare system — I do not suggest we should cut social welfare — to help people get back to work, in low paid employment in some cases. Deputy Ó Cuív gave some examples and said other Deputies would have similar experiences. I have experiences similar to those outlined. The major example is where someone has been offered a part-time job but will unfortunately lose rent allowance if he takes it. The advice I must give, with a heavy heart, is that he should not take the job because he will lose out. For a TD to have to give that advice is appalling. This must be dealt with because people will not take up low paid employment otherwise. They cannot be expected to do so if they will lose substantial amounts of money. We have heard much talk about poorly paid workers and the various incentives, etc. However, many of the promises made have not been fulfilled, especially with regard to the loss of medical cards, a matter which needs to be urgently addressed.

The Jobstart programme established by FÁS is aimed at long-term unemployment. The condition that one cannot have worked for the previous five years should be relaxed to allow some flexibility. Some people may have got one week's work during those five years and will thus be ineligible.

I welcome the report of the National Economic and Social Forum. It is an excellent body producing excellent reports. I note its criticism that the local employment service is not nationwide. That is another important promise which must be fulfilled as soon as possible. I hope this debate will go some way towards enlightening our policymakers in the area of long-term unemployment.

Ar dtús báire ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil leis an Rialtas as am a roinnt liom mar is díospóireacht an-tabhachtacht é an cheann ar dhí fhostaíocht.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on the NESF report on long-term unemployment. The following paragraph in a Green Party economic policy document which deals with something not often referred to in this context states:

The pursuit of economic growth has been treated in recent years as some type of Holy Grail. No debate has accompanied whether the large scale economic growth that has been achieved has been beneficial, or if it has, how has it been? In some respects it can be argued that some growth has contributed other economic problems such as unemployment. The Greens believe in sustainable economic activity. Where economic growth is achieved and does not result in social or environmental degradation, it can be welcomed; where it is pursued for its own sake, we may all be the poorer as a result.

This is relevant to the report under discussion because all too often economic growth and unemployment are treated as separate entities. It should be borne in mind that they are closely linked and one has a direct impact on the other.

The NESF is outside this House and, in many ways, removed from the debate here, and not every party in this House is represented on it — for example, there is no Green Party representation. However, the NESF does very good work and produces detailed reports. I hope the Dáil will continue to debate its reports so that its work will be brought to fruition in decision making.

When looking for solutions to unemployment, it is not often taken into account that it is directly linked to growth in mass technology. Unemployment is not a glitch. It is with us as a result of what we call progress, and we should face up to that and deal with it. There is no going back, but there is certainly call for a new way of thinking.

Unemployment is part of the cutbacks that have been forced on many, particularly local authorities. One example comes to light at this time of the year when people complain about potholes, bad services and insufficient staffing in local authorities. How economic is it to cut back drastically on staffing when people with little more than a shovel or a pick could be employed to keep drains open, thus preventing the deterioration of road surfaces caused by the accumulation of large amounts of water? The long-term picture must be taken into account rather than simply cutting back budgets on a year by year basis which often costs more in the long-term in financial and human terms.

Most county councils complain that they are caught between a rock and a hard place because they are so dependent on FÁS for employment schemes. This is an area that does not need radical change, but it does need change. I pay tribute to the voluntary organisations, for example, CRYPTIC in Balbriggan, which, acting as a well developed youth club takes young people who have left school early or without adequate qualifications, and links them with employers who want to be assured that the people they employ are willing to work and able to acquire the necessary, often specialised, skills. That organisation gets no help from FÁS although it is doing vital work and making the links between education and employment that, all too often, are not made.

In a wider sense we have to deal with such fundamental issues as tax reform. People in this House constantly talk of tax reform and encouraging enterprise, which is laudable and necessary. However, it is necessary that there is a fundamental shift in the burden of taxation, and it is not happening simply because of the rhetoric that until everybody else in Europe shifts taxation from a tax on labour to a tax on energy we cannot do so. I urge the Government to take on board what experts in the ESRI have been saying for some time, that Ireland, because of its unique economic climate, would be able to maintain competitiveness if we were to lessen tax on labour and shift the burden to energy. I urge the Government not to drag its feet on this matter. Action on it is overdue. It is relevant to unemployment because the less it costs an employer to take on people the more people can be employed. If people can work for money that would otherwise be paid in tax that would be an incentive to people to create their own employment as well as work for others.

Community employment is more than simply a FÁS buzzword, but it is not sufficiently encouraged. We are in a difficult and volatile international market, and the greater the sense of ownership and belonging on the part of people working in a company the greater will be their determination to hang on and work through difficult times and come out with the sense of having dealt with the difficulties and of having learned from them. That is often not appreciated. Semperit is one of those sad cases where the company is little more than a puppet being pulled on an international string. It has been said that the pension funds of employees in that company have indirectly contributed to the creation of unemployment. Perhaps some investigative journalist might write about this — there is not enough time to deal with it here.

It is important that we determine the quality of the employment being created. Many enterprises which set up here are, of their nature, short-term and unsustainable, even though they are welcomed by the Government. I urge the Government to vet employment and to place greater emphasis on repair and maintenance type industries. As one example I cite the car scrappage scheme. Buying new cars is all very well for sales people in garages, but it does not encourage repair or maintenance. Unfortunately, a four-year wait before one has to have one's car mechanically tested encourages replacement of cars rather than maintenance and repair which would create long-term sustainable employment and should be encouraged.

Debate adjourned.