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Direct rule Minster must tackle 'inactivity rates'

15 December, 2004

Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson, national chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin has said that direct rule ministers need to be honest about the huge issue of 'economic inactivity' if they are going to provide a long-term basis for economic growth and begin to address the issue of poverty.

Mr McLaughlin said:

"It is dishonest of direct rule ministers to celebrate the level of unemployment. In Strabane, Derry and Belfast there has been little or no progress in tackling unemployment particularly long-term unemployment. Many people living with poverty will be angry at their analysis of unemployment.

"Over the year, LFS figures show an estimated increase of 3,000 in total employment, a 6,000 decrease in unemployment and a increase of 3,000 in the economically inactive.

"Direct rule Ministers should be more concerned that there are 499,000 people who are now classified as economically inactive, an increase of 33,000 on last year. This represents an economic inactivity rate of 28.5%. This is very high and has implications both for individuals and for our economy. Direct rule ministers must surely see that having a 727,000 people in employment and 499,000 people who are economically inactive will have very serious long-term consequences for economic growth.

"These statistics in no way reflect the true economic and personal cost of unemployment. In many areas we have generational long-term unemployment. There was also an annual increase of 3,000 in the number of 18-24 year olds unemployed and the unemployment rate 18-24 year olds is now 12.5%.

"If we look at the totals for people who are classified as economically inactive, at the 'official' unemployment figures and also at the levels of long-term unemployment and long-term illness and incapacity the picture is far from rosy. 25% of the population live in poverty. More economically inactive people means that there are more people at risk from poverty. There is no strategy in place to deal with poverty.

"If we are going to tackle the social and economic problems created by the patterns of economic activity and inactivity throughout then we need to be honest about what is happening. Using 'official figures' to disguise the true extent of the problem will not help us to put in place the long-term solutions that these long standing problems require." ENDS

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