Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 18 Jan 1984

Vol. 347 No. 1

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Unemployment Forecasts.


asked the Taoiseach if he still believes the official forecasts of unemployment are too pessimistic in the light of the December unemployment figures.

In the "This Week" radio programme on Sunday, 8 January, I suggested that a figure of about 225,000 for average unemployment in 1984 was, in my view, a bit pessimistic. I believe it to be possible that the average monthly increase in the seasonally adjusted live register figures for 1984 will be closer to the average increase of just over 1,900 a month for the final nine months of 1983, recognising, of course, that the change fluctuates from month to month, as was the case in December last. This would yield an unemployment figure for 1984 which could be about 10,000 lower than the official estimate.

I would like to stress, however, as I said in the interview in question, that the Government very properly went on the official advice given to them and made financial provision in the Estimates for the official forecast of unemployment in 1984.

The Taoiseach, no doubt, will be fully aware when he made this statement that the figures for the unemployment increase of 28,000 and the figures reaching 208,000 already, were not known. In view of the fact that this very alarming increase in unemployment took place would he not think that this certainly should cast doubt on his, in my view, very mistaken optimism about unemployment? Would he not also advert to the fact that already, in the month of January, we have had an appalling and regrettable list of closures — and later on I know he will be making a statement about the loss and prospective loss of jobs in Cork, with 100 jobs lost in Burlington in Tullamore, 250 redundancies in Irish Biscuits, 91 jobs lost in Youghal? Would the fact that these factory closures, redundancies and job losses have emerged already at the very beginning of 1984 not cast very serious doubt on this false optimism he purported to convey in that interview?

On the first point that the Deputy raised, the great bulk of the increase in December over November was a seasonal increase — the seasonally adjusted increase was 3,200 — which is above the average of earlier months but fluctuations of that kind occur from time to time. The Economic and Social Research Institute, in their November 1983 bulletin, forecast, I think, an average of 210,000, very much lower even than the figure that I have indicated would be possible if the present trend or trend of the last nine months continued. Therefore, by the standards of the ESRI, my own personal assessment is pessimistic, not optimistic. It may very well be that, in individual months, there will be adverse fluctuations and in other months favourable fluctuations. I do not want to press the point but the fact is that we have made financial provision for the increase in unemployment, as officially advised to us in accordance with our practice of producing estimates solidly based on offical advice rather than the individual views of Ministers. I think I am entitled to my own personal opinion as to what may happen as long as I do not seek to impose these opinions in any way on the Estimates or budget.

Does the Taoiseach think that he can continue to speak with two voices, in that, on the one hand in so far as the Estimates over which he presides are concerned, he comes to the conclusion that the unemployment figure will be 225,000 and on the other hand he gives some sort of personal or divinely inspired estimate of a lesser figure? Would he accept that one of the principal planks of the Programme for Government which brought this motley Government together — and the figure was 170,000 at that time — was firm and decisive action to reduce the figure of 170,000 unemployed? In view of the fact that there are now 38,000 more persons unemployed than there were when that firm undertaking was given, would he agree that this Government have reneged totally on the whole question of employment and unemployment?

The fact that the rate of increase in unemployment that prevailed in the closing period of the Government over which the Deputy presided has been halved in the last nine months is evidence, as far as evidence can be given statistically, of the effects of the policy this Government have been pursuing as well, of course, as of external events and other factors that may operate favourably. I cannot therefore agree with the Deputy.

A last question to the Taoiseach. May I also remind the Taoiseach that, in that same, perhaps best forgotten document, there was a statement that the expansion of employment required a continuing high level of investment. The Taoiseach will recall that that was specifically indicated in the Programme for Government — a continuing high level of investment. In view of the fact that unemployment is still rising inexorably, can he now give us an assurance that, in their forthcoming budget, that undertaking at least will be honoured?

The Deputy will see the Central Bank Winter, 1983 Quarterly Bulletin projects an increase in investment in machinery and equipment arising from the recovery in the economy which they see taking place.

The Taoiseach will note also that, in that same Central Bank Bulletin the following statement was made in regard to his term of office in 1983:

However, the absolute level of the Exchequer borrowing requirement remained high by both historical and international standards, again requiring large scale foreign borrowing. As a result national debt, both domestic and foreign, continued to increase at a rate far faster than the growth in national resources, ....

The Deputy should not raise matters like that on this question.

Is the Taoiseach aware of that statement of the Central Bank and would he not now consider——

That level of borrowing, as referred to by the Central Bank Bulletin, is a 3 per cent lower share of GNP than was left by my predecessor. I would like to hear what the Deputy might have to say about that.


Order, Deputy Séamus Brennan.

Is the Taoiseach not genuinely underestimating the size of the problem considering that the unemployment rate now throughout all of Europe is approximately 10 per cent — in the United States it is approximately 8 per cent, that is an average figure for all of Europe and the United States — and that in this country it is now nearly 16 per cent? Does the Taoiseach not think that he is underestimating the size of the problem, considering that this country is out of line with virtually all other democratic states in the world?

I do not know what the Deputy means by contending I am underestimating the size of the problem. None of us is in doubt about the size of the problem as it is. The question relates to the likely trend of unemployment in the period ahead. We have made provision for the increase in unemployment which official advice suggests might occur. In pursuing that policy we have adhered rigidly and strictly to the principles that inform the operations of this Government, that at no stage will we alter or modify estimates of expenditure, or estimates of revenue as submitted to us on the best advice given to us, in order to produce a more favourable financial picture than would otherwise be there. That having been done, and having adhered to those principles, or should I say restored those principles, underlying the presentation of our finances, I am entitled to my own personal opinion, which may, of course, be proved wrong.

It is wrong already.

Double standards.


Deputies opposite may laugh again, that is the new tactic over there.

Question No. 4.

There is no laughing in the public service at present.