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Inactivity rates go the core of our economic problems

2 October, 2007

Sinn Féin Equality Spokesperson, Martina Anderson speaking in an Assembly debate on the Committee for the Administration of Justice report on the 'rhetoric and the reality' of Equality has said that deep seated problem of economic inactivity encapsulates the difficulties of the Six County economy.

There are 272,000 economically inactive people living in the North of Ireland - 147,000 are Catholic (54%) and 126,000 are Protestant (46%).

Ms Anderson said:

"Inactivity rates go the core of our economic problems and encapsulate the essence of our difficulties. Investment to secure prosperity cannot be separated from investment to address inactivity and impoverishment of our communities. They are structurally and intrinsically interlinked.

"It is a huge number of people who are excluded from all which we consider must constitute a quality of life - People stuck in a generational vicious spiral of poor housing, poor health and poor educational opportunities. Many of them are students, carers, people looking after their family home, or those who are sick or disabled.

"We all know streets where changes in the our economy have meant that everyone had work, and now they have none. Shipbuilding, textiles, engineering, have collapsed through Global changes - leaving incomprehension, despair, bitterness, anger and ultimately hopelessness behind.

"West of the Bann, which includes my constituency area of Derry - only 63% of Catholics are actively engaged and 72 % of Protestants, across this region. And there are pockets where inactivity is yet again an even higher index. But these appalling statistics disguise the real story. Derry's resident employment rate is around 10% lower than anywhere else in the North. Only slightly over 50% of working age people, half of Derry's working age residents are in employment. The waste is criminal.

"If we want to deliver economic growth as well as reverse inactivity rates, then we must target specific areas of disadvantage, through investment and procurement policies, where impact is measured through equality impact assessments, to meet the social needs of the people who live there. We must change the current patterns.

"There is a legal and statutory obligation on the public sector, under Equality legislation, to do this. We have come a long way from the Assembly of 2002 when the leading parties in the Executive did not ensure that economic prosperity also tackled disadvantage or the ensure the proper application of equality and TSN Principles. But thankfully, intelligent, political leadership now prevails." ENDS

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