Thursday, August 2, 2012

Cork Independent 02/08/2012

The text of a short article from today’s Cork Independent is below the fold.  It offers some brief comments on the unemployment figures published recently as part of the results from Census 2011.  The newsprint version of the article can be seen on page 30 here alongside a rather colourful picture of some Naked Bike Riders!

The Real Problems

At times it can seem as if the news headlines and media debates are far removed from the real problems faced by households and businesses on the frontline of our economies.  The focus is on bond markets, eurozone debt crises and EU/IMF bailouts.  The unemployment crisis in Ireland is a case in point.  There are few statistical releases or dramatic announcements that capture the attention.

Unemployed surged in 2008 and 2009 when the property bubble burst and there were huge job losses in construction with knock-on consequences in retail and other areas.  The recent Census results showed that there in April 2011 there were 425,000 who listed themselves as unemployed.

The 2006 Census showed that there were nearly 12,000 people working as plasterers in April of that year.  The employment results of the 2011 Census indicate that there are now fewer than 3,000 people working as plasterers in Ireland.

Falls such as this are reflected across the construction sector and have resulted in more than 125,000 direct job losses in the sector with possibly half as many again in related areas. 

One statistic from the Census that did attract a lot of attention is the unemployment rate of 40% for those aged between 15 and 24.  This led to numerous claims along the lines that “nearly 1-in-2 of our young people are unemployed”.  Claims such as this are wide of the mark.

The Census showed that there are around 580,000 people in the 15 to 24 age category.  Of these 22,000 are unemployed looking for their first job and 60,000 are unemployed having lost their previous job.  This means there are 82,000 in the youth unemployment category.   This is 1-in-7 of 15 to 24 years olds rather than the claimed 1-in-2.

The reason is that most people in this age group are not in the labour force; they are in full-time education.  The unemployment rate is the percent of the labour force that do not have a job.  Of 15 to 24 year olds around 212,000 are in the labour force and the 82,000 unemployed is 40% of this sub-total rather than 40% of all 15 to 24 year olds.

The majority of 15 to 24 years olds in are secondary or third-level education and do not feature in unemployment statistics.  Claims that 1 in 2 young people are unemployed are misleading when the reality is that more than 350,000 of them are in full-time education.

Ireland’s unemployment crisis needs to receive far more attention.  The financial woes of the government and the euro area will be resolved but until that happens they will remain the focus of attention.  When the unemployment crisis does get a look-in it would be helpful if the statistics available were used appropriately so a true reflection of the problem is reported.

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