Enda Kenny: We’ll find 50,000 more jobs by 2020

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has claimed Government will be able to find jobs for 50,000 more long-term unemployed people by the end of the decade, if it is re-elected to power.

The Fine Gael leader outlined the high-profile pre-election promise alongside Tánaiste and Labour leader Joan Burton yesterday, emphasising his call late last year to “make work pay” by dis-incentivising welfare payments through reforms which is likely to form a key part of the initiative.

Speaking at the launch of the Coalition’s Pathways to Work 2016-2020 strategy, Mr Kenny said he wants to end the negative aspects of welfare payments by reforming the system and helping “families trapped in the cycle of poverty and joblessness”.

If re-elected, he said the Government will be able to do this through a series of measures aimed at finding jobs for 50,000 people who are long-term unemployed — including 20,000 alone this year.

The high-profile strategy — which follows on from a similar 2012-2015 plan to reduce long-term unemployment rates by 75,000 and intends to increase employment to 2.2m by the end of the decade — involves 86 individual service improvements the Coalition believes will provide greater opportunities for those seeking work.

They include new apprenticeship programmes, a First Steps initiative for young people in disadvantaged areas and increasing the number of case office meetings for people receiving the job-seekers allowance.

Labour leader Joan Burton
Labour leader Joan Burton

However, in addition to the measures, the initiative also involves an increased focus on “pro-active engagement” with people who can work but are on the dole to seek employment, and a return by Mr Kenny to his call last October to make work pay by promoting work over alleged incentives for some people to remain on the dole.

Speaking at the launch yesterday, he said the plan will help “families trapped in a cycle of poverty and joblessness” and that it is not advisable to allow the welfare system to continue without “reform”.

On page 27 of the plan, the document states that Government intends to “ensure unemployed people have a financial incentive to work and that the tax, welfare and employment policies and services of the State act to encourage the take-up of work”.

However, the plan has noted that any review on the “impact” of cuts to the job-seekers allowance will not be published until the middle of this year, after the election takes place, and that a formal response to a recent University of Limerick survey on the spread of low-contract hour jobs, which have played a role in bringing down unemployment numbers, is still awaited.

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