I welcome members and viewers who may be watching our proceedings on Oireachtas TV to this meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Key Issues affecting the Traveller Community. The purpose of today's meetings is to start our deliberations on the topic of employment. This is our first hearing of four examining the disproportionate levels of unemployment among Travellers. By listening to presenters from the Traveller community and others, we hope to get a sense of the scale of the problems facing Travellers in accessing jobs and how to remove those barriers to employment. Since we started our public work in September, this joint committee has become aware of the key issues affecting and bearing down on Travellers. These issues do not stand alone; they are very much connected. Members of the committee will know that Travellers are seven times more likely to take their own lives. According to the Irish Traveller Movement, an estimated 30 people, including children, died by suicide up to the end of August this year. A trend in that regard is also emerging among young mothers. The Minister of State with responsibility for mental health admitted that there is a crisis in mental healthcare among Travellers. Members of this committee will also know that there are gross disparities in the general health of Travellers and that of the general population. The mortality rate of babies born to Traveller families is almost four times that of the general population. A Traveller baby is therefore four times more likely to die than a non-Traveller baby in the cot next to him or her in the hospital. Travellers die young. Some 70% of Travellers fail to reach their 60th birthday.
The committee is aware that Travellers are 50 times more likely to leave school without a leaving certificate. Travellers are disproportionately affected by the practice of reduced hours timetables where their culture and history are neither taught, understood, nor respected and where children and young people not so much drop out but are pushed out of education. Two Ministers with responsibility for education who appeared before the committee last week acknowledged the issues and indicated they are willing to consider the committee's recommendations.
Poor educational attainment among Travellers has knock-on effects for employment, which is our topic for examination today. The statistics in this regard are stark. On foot of the census carried out by the CSO in 2016, we are aware that 80% of Travellers within the potential workforce are unemployed in comparison with 13% of the general population. Some 1.1% of Travellers are self-employed, compared with 16.6% of the wider community. Self-employment was a big source of employment for Travellers in the past. According to the ESRI's A Social Portrait of Travellers in Ireland, the employment rate of non-Travellers is six times higher than that of Travellers. Whatever way we slice and dice the statistics, the disparities are vast. Comparatively speaking, the Traveller employment rate national is just 9% among those with a primary level education, 15% among those with lower second level education, which is the junior certificate, 27% among those with a leaving certificate and 57% among the very small number of people with a further or higher education. This compares with a figure of 85% among members of the wider community. In the national Traveller survey, of the 60% of Travellers who participated in a trainee scheme, only three in ten went on to get jobs. A total of 43% of Travellers have stated that they experience discrimination in accessing employment and only one in ten of non-Traveller employers said they would employ a Traveller. This is prejudice and discrimination on a pretty grand scale. The topic is very important, and there are huge tracks back to education, health and mental health. The off-the-scale rate of unemployment is a waste of people's potential and it affects people's mental health and life chances. Such disparities at a time of full employment and skills shortages merit a major investigation. We hope to make that start today.
I welcome Mr. Patrick Reilly from Pavee Point. He is back before the committee to tell his story and he is very welcome. We hope the story will lead to action. I am conscious of the effort and energy put in by so many people like Mr. Reilly. Ms Kathleen Sherlock and Mr. T.J. Hogan from the Mincéirs Whiden Society regularly come before the committee to discuss the key issues affecting Travellers. I welcome Dr. Mary Murphy, Ms Sinéad Burke and Ms Orla O'Neill from the St. Stephen’s Green Trust. I also welcome Mr. James O’Leary, director, Involve, Mr. Michael Power, editor of Travellers' Voice magazine, and Dr. Sheila Cannon, director of Shuttle Knit. We have a lot of people to hear from.
I draw our guests attention to the fact that, by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. I ask witnesses, members and visitors in the Gallery to turn off their mobile phones or place them in flight mode. I advise witnesses that any submissions or opening statements they make to this committee will be published on the committee website after this meeting. After the opening presentation, members will ask questions. I invite Mr. Reilly to make his opening statement.