Unemployment in East Clare is currently two and a half times greater than it was in January 2008, according to statistics recorded at the Tulla Social Welfare office, and two-thirds of those out of work are men.
Since January 2008 the CSO has recorded a steady increase in those signing on the Live Register in East Clare, with those unemployed at that time recorded at 582. Statistics released for December of 2009 show that those signing on peaked at 1480. This is the highest number of people to sign on in Tulla since the CSO began publishing these figures in 2005.
According to the research, the majority of those out of work in the East Clare area are men, with 977 recorded as having signed on in December 2009. Of these, 797 were over the age of 25 and 180 were under the age of 25.
Overall, Live Register figures for December 2008 in Tulla stood at 999, while in 2007 they stood at 552 and in December 2006 there were only 448 signing on in Tulla.
The branch office processes Social Welfare applications across East Clare from Killanena down to Two Mile Gate, into Sixmilebridge and parts of Broadford. Northern villages in East Clare come under the branch office in Gort, while those in South East Clare have their applications processed in Limerick.
Fianna Fáil councillor Pat Hayes has described these figures as “very disappointing”.
“In November we thought there was a decline. This is extremely worrying for the people of East Clare. The fact that those signing on is male dominant reflects the downturn in the building industry. East Clare was also hit following the redundancies from Dell and outlying areas where factories have closed. I think it’s something that will have to be dealt with on a national level. We simply can’t get economic growth unless there is a stimulus package for businesses to set up here. The cost of doing business is also causing problems. I do welcome that there has been no increase to the rates. We need to try to put employment policies in place so that when we stabilise the economy we can look at employment. The Government needs to start looking at setting up community employment projects and there are very few of these in East Clare at the moment. We also have to look at our own resources. In East Clare, tourism is critical and it’s an industry that has never been built up, so we might look at that,” Councillor Hayes said.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael Councillor Joe Cooney said that the Government should try to bring new school and building projects forward to give work to those in the construction industry.
“This is a big increase in unemployment. First of all, a lot of these workers would have been employed in construction and, as we know, construction is at a full stop and banks are releasing no money. The Government, however, is not taking action to get small businesses going. They seem to be more prepared to bail out the banks than helping small businesses to start up and survive. A lot of small businesses in the construction industry would have been employing between 10 and 12 people and now they’re down to one and two people,” he added.
Councillor Cooney has urged the Government to spring to action and to consider retraining people through State-run schemes. He has stressed that there are many young people who are skilled but are unable to complete or start apprenticeships.
“From the figures, I can see that two-thirds of those signing on are men. I would imagine most of these people have been employed between farming and construction and nothing has been happening in these industries. The Government is not enticing businesses in and in the budget they did nothing to create jobs. They will have to look at getting things moving. Even now that 2010 has come, things have got worse. They should be talking about retraining people and trying to get young people that can’t get apprenticeships to be taken on through FÁS,” he concluded.