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Alternative employment opportunities must be created for vulnerable construction sector workers - Morgan

11 June, 2007

Reacting to the fact that employment in the construction sector fell for the first time since 2003, Sinn Féin's Employment spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD has demanded that the incoming Government take action to ensure alternative employment opportunities for those employed in that sector, many of whose jobs are likely to go in the years ahead. Sinn Féin has been warning of the risks involved in an over dependence on construction sector for many months according to Morgan.

Speaking today Deputy Morgan said, "Construction sector employment has fallen for the first time since 2003. This is not unexpected. Many of us had warned that the numbers employed in construction were unsustainable. The dependence of the economy on the construction sector was highlighted by Sinn Féin as one of the fundamental weaknesses of the Irish economy. We highlighted the fact that at the end of 2006 construction sector accounted for 23% of the state's GDP, compared to an EU average of about 12%. We pointed out that both the ESRI and the IMF raised serious concerns about this over-dependence.

"Prior to the current fall, one in eight workers (approximately 254,000 people) -- and around 1 in every 4 male workers -- were employed in the construction sector. Job losses across regional towns have been camouflaged by the buoyant construction sector. A further fall in construction employment which is almost inevitable will have particularly dire consequences for such areas which lack alternative employment opportunities.

"The outgoing government failed to replace jobs, in particular in the manufacturing sector, which have been lost across regional towns over the last number of years. By providing statistical information about the number of jobs created compared to the number lost they succeeded in successfully dodging key questions regarding what kind of jobs have been created, where those jobs have been created, in what sectors they have been created and indeed how many of the new jobs are in low paid employment. The fact is that most new jobs for male workers created in recent years were in the construction sector.

"We need to plan now for the future of those likely to lose their jobs in the construction sector and associated services. In fact planning for this eventuality should have started before now -- it is an indictment of the outgoing government that this was not done. If we do not do this now, the consequences of a slow down in the construction sector will be even more severe and far reaching". ENDS

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