The definition of unemployment used in the above-mentioned survey is self-defined unemployment as opposed to the stricter definition used by the ILO. While the methods used in the survey can be questioned (e.g. door-to-door surveys can capture less employed people as they are more likely to be out at work) and recent Live Register figures show that there has been a 4.8% decrease in the numbers signing on in Ballyfermot in the past twelve months, the Government recognises that unemployment black spots exist in specific areas across the country and need to be addressed. Also, people who are not working but who are also unavailable for work such as students and carers may be classified as unemployed.
The Government’s approach to tackling the unemployment problem is to focus resources on those individuals most at risk of long-term unemployment.
Up to the recent past, this has been based on identifying all persons who remain on the Live Register for three months after first signing on, and referring them for more intensive job-search assistance and guidance. Increasingly, referral is now based on profiling people at the beginning of a spell of unemployment, so as to focus resources on those most in need at an even earlier stage.
By definition, such an approach focuses resources on those areas where unemployment is highest and of longest duration. The roll-out of the profiling system at my Department’s ‘one-stop-shop’ Intreo offices will further enhance this effect as one of the main variables in the profiling system is geographical location. In other words, if someone comes from an area of high unemployment, s/he will, all other things being equal, receive more targeted assistance.
In addition, the geographical distribution of places on employment programmes such as CE and Tús & training programmes has been highly correlated with unemployment rates for each region. Within the Tús programme there is a specific area-based approach to the allocation of places. The 5,000 places on the scheme are allocated to community and voluntary organisations involved in the delivery of local services in urban and rural areas. The allocation is based on the numbers of eligible unemployed people in each local development company or Údarás na Gaeltachta area.
Other than through administrative mechanisms like those described, it is difficult to identify and target specific unemployment black spots at a very local level. The most frequent unemployment data come from the Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS); as a sample survey, the QNHS provides reliable data at a regional, but not at a local level. Small-area statistics are collected in the Census, but these are available only at five-year intervals, and the unemployment concept underlying them does not correspond exactly with that used in the QNHS.
However, the Government’s policy of targeting resources at those most at risk of long-term unemployment overcomes this statistical deficit and ensures those areas that are most in need of assistance are prioritised. My Department works primarily at a local level and is acutely aware of the differentiated impact of unemployment across local areas. The Department has 59 local offices, 63 branch offices and newly incorporated employment offices. The Live Register figures by office are closely monitored and are an important consideration for the provision of our activation services.
In terms of job creation, the Action Plan for Jobs recognises the need for a concerted effort by Government and contains 333 actions to be implemented this year by 16 Government Departments and 46 agencies. The original Action Plan for Jobs sets out a target for 100,000 net new jobs to be created by 2016. In addition, the Action Plan for Jobs 2013 includes the Pathways to Work initiative’s targets for increasing the number of people who are long-term unemployed moving into employment and reducing the average length of time spent on the Live Register.
Specifically, these targets are that:
(i) at least 75,000 of those currently long-term unemployed will move into employment by 2015.
(ii) Increase the exit rate of people on the live register for two years or more by 50% (to 40%) by the end of 2015
(iii) Reduce the persistence rate (the rate at which short term unemployed people become long term unemployed) to 25%.
These targets are particularly relevant for unemployment black spots with a high prevalence of long-term unemployment.