While Stormont politicians enjoy their long summer recess in sunny climes, recently released figures from the Six-County Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment [DETI] reveal the employment crisis that continues to beset working people.
DETI’s Labour Market Report, published last week, does open with the good news that the employment rate in the Six Counties has increased slightly to 68.3 per cent, though this rate is lower than any region in Britain and lower than the median of 72.3 per cent for Britain and occupied Ireland.
Adding insult to injury, workers in full-time employment in the Six Counties continue to earn less than their counterparts in Britain, weekly earnings on average being only 90 per cent of the figure for Britain and occupied Ireland – £439.10 [€521] compared to £488.70 [€579]. Women in the Six Counties also earn only 84.3 per cent of men’s earnings on average, representing a gap that continues to widen.
The unemployment rate has also increased slightly from last year, as Stormont’s official unemployment rate stands at seven per cent – representing 59,000 people. However, as previously noted by éirígí (Stormont Isn’t Working for the 100,000 Out of Work), there has been a bad habit of removing large numbers of people from the official unemployment rate.
The report records 42,000 people who want work as being “economically inactive”. Taking this into account, the number of people unemployed in the Six Counties stands at 101,000 – 12 per cent of the workforce. This means that the Six Counties’ actual unemployment rate is higher than the average for Britain and occupied Ireland [7.9 per cent] and higher than the EU average [9.7 per cent] also.
The past year has seen a 13.6 per cent rise in the number of people claiming unemployment benefits, now standing at 56,100 people. Once again, the rate for the Six Counties [6.3 per cent] is higher than the average for Britain and occupied Ireland [4.5 per cent].
The situation continues to deteriorate in traditionally deprived areas. In Derry, the claimant count stands at 5,056 [7.4 per cent of the workforce in the city] – an increase of 11 per cent on last year. In West Belfast, there was a two per cent increase from last year, to 4,535 [8.8 per cent of the workforce], in North Belfast there was a seven per cent increase, to 3,431 [6.9 per cent], and, in Newry & Armagh, there was a 25 per cent increase, to 3,959 [5.9 per cent].
Commenting on the figures, cathaoirleach éirígí Brian Leeson said: “Once again, the statistics show that Stormont is clearly not working for the working class. While the establishment politicians continue to enjoy their countless junkets-cum-investment conferences, Stormont’s obsession with Foreign Direct Investment is of no benefit to workers. Britain’s administration is proving yet again to be nothing more than a damp squib.
“Westminster continues to look upon the Six Counties as a colonial backwater, with workers in the statelet providing the cheapest labour in these islands and a large body of unemployed ready to take their place.
“The obsession of establishment politicians in the Six Counties with the politics of the optics – fawning upon US businessmen and celebrating the entry of Irish cities into crass British competitions – have achieved next to no results for working class people.”
Leeson continued: “The fight-back against this injustice has to come from both the employed and the unemployed. It has to come from those people who will be the first targets of the Tory-led British government’s attack on our living standards.
“The interests of working people are not served by the establishment politicians at Westminster or at Stormont. True freedom will only be achieved when we throw off the shackles of imperialism and capitalism. Speed the day.”
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