Soaring unemployment in Waterford and the region has prompted IBEC and local political representatives to demand urgent action.
Live Register figures show the South East as having the third highest rate of increase in the country, behind the Border and Dublin. The Midlands, the Taoiseach’s territory, has the lowest.
For the twelve months to October, the South East’s Live Register numbers increased by 13,289 to 33,743. Wexford, with 4,685, had the highest additions, followed by Waterford with 3,325, South Tipperary with 1,890, Kilkenny with 1,797 and Carlow with 1,592.
The new figures highlight the need for greater support from the IDA in ensuring that the region benefits from new jobs, according to IBEC.
“The South East needs action by the IDA to ensure the region benefits from foreign direct investment jobs”, said John Farrell, that body’s Regional Director. “There is a large gap between our regional economy and other economies in the Southern and Eastern region, with the South East economy resembling the Border Midlands West region in a number of key areas.
“We need commitment from the government and its agencies that the South East will be supported in its endeavour to improve employment and regional infrastructure”, Mr Farrell added. “We renew our call for a university, which would transform the economic and social circumstances of the region, as well as acting as an agent of change and an enabler in transitioning the region”.
Workers Party local election candidate for Ward 2 in Waterford City, Joe Tobin, accused the government of inertia in face of growing job losses. He said unemployment was now growing by the equivalent of the population of a large town every month and we were once again on the cusp of a national crisis.
He said the government could not hide behind the international downturn in the economy as the sole cause of unemployment since the decline in this country had been much more rapid and steep than comparable countries. “This is not about lack of competitiveness which the Taoiseach has highlighted along with his claim that the crisis is outside his control.
This is about the failure of the government to foresee the downturn and to put in place employment strategies and jobs that would not disappear at the first signs of jitters on Wall Street”, he said. He said there was plenty to be done in Ireland, highlighting the “desperate need” for social housing with 50,000 people on local authority housing lists. There was also an obvious requirement to modernise schools and hospitals and ensure adequate services.
And he held Waterford’s two government TDs responsible for not protecting the interests of Waterford City and County.
On the same theme, Labour Deputy Brian O’Shea told the Dail this week that 7,817 people were on the Live Register in Waterford City and County at the end of September. The comparable figures for 2007 and 2006 were 5,303 and 5319, respectively.
He also addressed the necessity for a university, saying it was the issue of greatest concern and yet it had not been addressed in the budget. He stated: “In answer to a parliamentary question tabled a few weeks ago, the Minister indicated a decision would be made in the coming weeks on applications submitted by three Institutes of Technology in Dublin, Cork and Waterford to have their status upgraded to that of university. The absence of a university in the south east is holding back the region, which continues to suffer from the loss of traditional industrial jobs. Unless the south east has the capacity to develop jobs in the knowledge economy based on top class research and development, its future will be bleak”.
Senator Paudie Coffey (FG) said the number of people signing-on in Waterford had increased by 341 in the past month and the increase in unemployment in twelve months amounted to 55 pc.
Calling for urgent action to stem the rising tide of job losses, he said unemployment is the human cost of economic mismanagement. The government had thrown in the towel, he maintained, “in the same way as it has thrown in the towel on public services and the public finances”.
His party has called on the government to take a four-pronged approach to stem rising unemployment: Abandon the “failed budget”; Invest in education and Ireland – I raised this matter on a number of occasions here. Honeywell, a training; Restore competitiveness; and provide greater support for business.
Back to education
Waterford City Sinn Fein Councillor David Cullinane has also sharply criticised “government inaction” on job creation. He called for a back to education scheme for young construction workers.
“It is essential that the state introduces a specific back to education scheme for such workers under the age of 25 without Leaving Certs”, he insisted. “The Taoiseach’s Department estimates that under 25s represent 50.3% of the total construction unemployment figure in 2007 and 2008 and that a large majority do not have a Leaving Certificate. It is also essential that training and upskilling courses for alternative industries to construction are provided”.