Dáil Éireann - Volume 327 - 24 February, 1981

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Job Creation.

7. Dr. Browne asked the Minister for Finance (a) the total number of jobs created during the past year, (b) the net total after deducting jobs lost, redundancies, etc., and (c) the total amount of public money spent on job creation during this period.

8. Mr. Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance the number of jobs started in 1980.

9. Mr. Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance if he is aware that section 7 of the national understanding committed the Government to a net increase in employment of 7,000 in 1980 but that registered unemployment actually increased by almost 35,000 in 1980; if the figures quoted are reconcilable; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

10. Mr. Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance if the terms of the national understanding in respect of jobs have been breached; and if any further job losses are expected in 1981 as a result of the national understanding.

Mr. Calleary: With the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, I propose to take [12] Questions Nos. 7 to 10, inclusive, together.

Mr. Mitchell: On a point of order, the questions now to be answered were tabled by me to the Minister for Labour and transferred to the Minister for Finance, who understandably cannot be here today. Where is the Minister of State at the Department of Finance? Why does the Minister of State at the Department of the Public Service have to answer these questions?

An Ceann Comhairle: Ministers have collective responsibility in these matters.

Mr. Mitchell: There is a Minister of State at the Department of Finance. Why is he not here to answer these questions? Is he not capable of doing so?

An Ceann Comhairle: Questions Nos. 7 to 10, inclusive, to be taken together.

Mr. Calleary: It is not possible to estimate the total number of jobs created during 1980 nor to estimate the level of gross job loss which occurred during the year. The latest estimates for total employment published by the Central Statistics Office relate to April 1980 and show that in the year to that date total employment increased by 18,000. Indicators relating to the subsequent period show that there has been a fall in the numbers employed in the manufacturing industry and building and construction sectors but this is expected to have been offset by a continuation of the rise in the numbers engaged in the services sector, so that on average during 1980 there was little or no change in the 1979 level of employment. At this stage, it is not possible to estimate the net employment situation at the end of 1980.

The labour force increase is a major factor in reconciling the steep rise in unemployment with a continued high level of job creation. The job figures in the second national understanding were based on the assumption of a labour force increase of 5,000 to 10,000. It is now estimated by the Central Statistics Office that in the year to April 1980 the labour [13] force increased by 18,000 following an average annual increase of 23,500 in the previous two years. This suggests that the labour force assumption in the second national understanding understated the trend. Estimates are not available for the increase in the labour force in the period since last April.

Section 7 of the second national understanding commits the Government to undertake new measures to stimulate job creation and reduce job losses. So far, the Government have taken every measure possible to meet this commitment. In particular, I would draw attention to the £97 million package announced upon agreement of the terms of the second national understanding and to the expenditure on direct job creation schemes in 1980 which amounted to over £20 million.

It would be misleading to regard these expenditures as representing the Government's only contributions to job creation. The Public Capital Programme plays a significant role in employment maintenance and creation. Expenditure by bodies such as the IDA, SFADCo and Udarás na Gaeltachta on industrial promotion in 1980 amounted to £187 million. The total expenditure on the programme was £1,270 million of which £815 million affected the building industry and had a significant influence on employment in that sector.

The employment objectives of the second national understanding will be greatly supported by the implementation of the Investment Plan 1981. Apart from its indirect impact on employment generally, the plan will result in higher direct employment of about 10,000 mainly in building and construction, telecommunications and energy. This extra employment will be additional to the jobs arising directly in manufacturing industry and indirectly in the services sector as a result of investment by the industrial promotion agencies.

Dr. Browne: It is difficult to absorb all the figures, but would the Minister not agree that the most recent figure of 11 per cent unemployed, the highest in the European Community, demonstrates [14] without doubt that the Haughey administration's job creation programme has been a disastrous failure?

Mr. Calleary: No, I do not agree. These European Community figures show our unemployment rate at 11 per cent. However, broadly speaking, the EEC calculate the employment rate by taking the equivalent of the live register from country to country as the percentage of the civilian labour force, that is excluding Defence Forces. As legislation and administrative practices differ from one Member state to the other the EEC employment figures should only be used for analysis of trends as they are not suitable for a comparison of absolute levels of employment.

(Interruptions.)

On this basis Ireland are not at the top of the unemployment list. As far as year on year increases are concerned, the following figures show that the UK, in the percentage increase in January 1980 to January 1981, had a 65 per cent increase, Denmark had a 62 per cent increase, the Netherlands a 48 per cent increase and Ireland had a 36 per cent increase.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Mitchell: I would refer back to the national understanding. The Minister is probably aware——

An Ceann Comhairle: A question, please.

Mr. Mitchell: Is the Minister aware that, when the Government signed the national understanding in October 1980, two months before the end of the calendar year, 1980, they committed themselves—and I will read the section——

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy may not read it.

Mr. Mitchell:——to a net jobs increase of 7,000? In the same period unemployment increased by 35 per cent. According to the Minister, the work force has [15] increased by 7,000. How did the Government get the figures for the growth in the work force so wrong only two months before the end of the calendar year? In view of the fact that the figures were so totally wrong, does the Minister consider that the terms of the national understanding are null and void?

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Kelly: Let us hear the silence.

Mr. Calleary: I do not accept that the figures are as the Deputy says and I do not accept that the national understanding is null and void.

Mr. Cluskey: Does the Minister accept——

Mr. Mitchell: May I have an answer to my question?

Mr. Cluskey: ——that the average job losses per month since last September have been 6,000, 1,500 jobs every week?

Mr. Calleary: I do not accept that.

Mr. Cluskey: The Minister in his formal reply told the House that he did not know the figure, so how can he not accept it? There has been a 38 per cent increase over the last 12 months.

Mr. Calleary: 38 per cent is considerably better than——

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Kelly, please.

Mr. Cluskey: One thousand five hundred jobs lost every week.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Calleary: There is a world recession on.

Mr. Kelly: With the permission of the [16] Ceann Comhairle, I will ask two questions.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Moore: Let Deputy Kelly speak, please.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Kelly without interruption, please.

Mr. Kelly: Did I understand the Minister to say that the position which we hold at the head of the EEC unemployment tables was unreal because of the difference in the statistical basis on which our figures are compiled compared with that of other countries?

Mr. Calleary: Yes, that is the situation.

Mr. Kelly: In that case was I not correct in understanding the Minister's party's point of view four years ago to have been that, so far from our official figures overstating the unemployment figures, they understated it by 50,000? Was that not the case which the Government party were making in 1977?

Mr. Moore: You were very bad there.

Mr. Kelly: Deputy Moore was keen on free speech a minute ago so will the Deputy let the man beside him speak.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Kelly: Please let us have an answer to this.

An Ceann Comhairle: It is very difficult to get answers when there are interruptions from both sides of the House.

Mr. Kelly: May I just explain——

An Ceann Comhairle: I do not want any explanations. Will the Minister answer Deputy Kelly's question, please?

Mr. Calleary: I do not know what question [17] Deputy Kelly asked, he asked so many.

Mr. Moore: The Deputy does not know himself.

Mr. Kelly: I will repeat it. I understand from the Minister's reply that the reason why it was not legitimate to put us at the head of the EEC unemployment tables was because our statistical system tended to understate the problem rather than the other way round. The Minister agreed with that. I then asked how could the Minister reconcile that with the argument which his party went to the country on four years ago, namely, that the unemployment figures understated the problem and there were actually 50,000 more people unemployed than the registered figures suggested. Could I have an answer to that?

Mr. Calleary: Because of the difference in calculating the unemployment rate, the figure of 11 per cent mentioned today is not correct. It varies from country to country.

Mr. Kelly: Has the Minister then made representations to the European Commission asking them to withdraw that figure and reissue a new figure which would convey the true position, and, if not, why not?

Mr. Calleary: I have not done that.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Mitchell: This is a matter of great national importance. How is it that in October last year the Government committed themselves to a net increase of 7,000 in employment which allowed for job creation and job losses and allowed for a net increase of between 5,000 and 10,000 in the work force and that those figures are so wrong? What information has come to hand since then to prove those figures so wrong?

Mr. Calleary: There was an underestimation of the labour force by the Government in October or September and, [18] instead of the figure of 5,000 to 10,000, the figure has been proved by the Central Statistic Office to have been well over 18,000. That was one of the reasons why the job creation programme has not been as good as it was estimated it would be.

Mr. Mitchell: Further to——

An Ceann Comhairle: This is the final supplementary.

Mr. P. Barry: The Deputy had three questions down.

An Ceann Comhairle: I am responsible for the number of supplementaries asked.

Mr. Mitchell: Given that the Government got the figures so seriously wrong — they estimated it to be one-third of what it turned out to be — does the Minister agree that the terms of the national understanding were agreed under false pretences? The unions would have good cause to seek to re-negotiate the terms of the national understanding on that basis alone. Could the Minister now give us an estimate of job losses during 1980?

Mr. Calleary: I cannot accept that the national understanding was agreed under false pretences as the Deputy said. It was agreed by the Government and the social partners.

Mr. P. Barry: On the basis of figures the Minister now says are false. That is what he said.

Mr. Calleary: To some extent these figures were compounded by the fact that the Coalition Government in their wisdom saw fit not to hold a census.

Mr. E. Collins: Fianna Fáil have been in Government for three-and-a-half years.

Mr. P. Barry: What about original sin?

Mr. Moore: That is a dirty word, is it not?

[19] Mr. L'Estrange: Original sin?

An Ceann Comhairle: No interruptions, please.

Mr. Calleary: Deputy Mitchell quoted the national understanding and he did not stress that, in a footnote, it said that the effect of the figures in paragraph 7 on the level of unemployment depended on the increase in the size of the labour force which was estimated by the Government at 5,000 to 10,000. In actual fact, the increase in the labour force, as certified later by the Central Statistics Office, was over 18,000.

An Ceann Comhairle: Ceist 11 is withdrawn. Ceist 12.

Mr. Mitchell: I asked the Minister could he estimate the job losses in 1980 and he did not answer that question.

Mr. Calleary: The amount of resource tax collected——

Mr. Mitchell: On a point of order, I asked the Minister if he could estimate the job losses in 1980 and he did not answer that question.

An Ceann Comhairle: That is not a point of order.

Mr. Mitchell: What is it?

An Ceann Comhairle: Ceist 12.

Mr. Mitchell: Am I not entitled to an answer?

An Ceann Comhairle: I am not responsible for the answers.

Mr. Calleary: I have already answered Deputy Mitchell's supplementary question. I said it is not possible——

An Ceann Comhairle: Would the Minister please answer Ceist 12?