TAKEN at face value, yesterday’s figures showing unemployment has fallen to 6% must be celebrated, especially as not so very long ago, in December 2010, that stood at a distressing 15.1% — two-and-a-half times yesterday’s rate. These figures represent economic recovery writ large but it is prudent to probe a little to see if they represent social recovery as well.
Changes in work, not to mention the intolerable situation where hugely profitable companies pay workers so poorly that employees must rely on state subvention undermine the grand uplift of the figures. Though very welcome it is impossible not to wonder if the 6% figure is achieved by describing unsustainable, poverty-line exploitations as jobs. There is, after all, little point in having a job unless you can support and house your family. Hopefully, yesterday’s 6% is a milestone along the road to both low unemployment and good, sustainable employment. A second set of figures yesterday, this time from the European Commission that recorded wavering but “historically elevated” levels of business confidence suggest that social objective is within reach.
Almost inevitably, the optimism supported by these figures runs into the sands of Brexit. Yesterday’s assurance from British foreign secretary Boris Johnson that travel between the Republic and North would be “like crossing London’s boroughs” shows how hard it can be to rely on official assessments no matter how we might wish to believe them.