80% of Travellers unemployed: CSO

More than eight out of 10 Travellers are unemployed, as low participation in education continues to persist among the community.

According to census data released by the CSO, the number of Travellers stood at 29,573 last year, accounting for around 0.6% of the population.

This represents a 32% increase on 2006. More than four out of five Travellers lived in an urban area, with most living in Galway.

Unemployment in the Traveller community stood at 84.3% in 2011, up from almost 75% five years earlier.

Out of a total labour force of 9,973, 86.6% of the 5,828 males were unemployed while 81.2% of the 4,144 women were without work.

Commenting on the extremely high unemployment rates, acting director of Pavee Point Martin Collins said it was “not surprising” given many Travellers worked in the construction industry.

“Given the way the Celtic Tiger has gone, those figures are not surprising, unfortunately. Many Travellers worked in construction and we know what has happened to that sector.

“What it does point to, however, is the need for a national Traveller employment strategy. We have been calling for this for quite some time but the main departments like the Department of Social Protection and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation haven’t managed to see the merit in it.”

Linked to unemployment rates are the continuing low levels of Traveller participation in education.

The census figures show that almost seven out of 10 Travellers were educated to primary level at most, including more than 500 teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19 years old.

The number of Travellers who completed third-level education in 2011 was 115, or 1%, compared to more than 30% of the general population.

Only 3.1% continued their education past the age of 18 compared to 41% of the general population, while 17.7% of Travellers received no formal education of any kind. This compares with 1.4% of the general population.

On a more positive note, 21.8% of Travellers whose education had ceased were educated to lower second-level, compared with 15.2% in 2002.

Pavee Point’s acting director said this improvement in Traveller attitudes to education was a welcome development but acknowledged that more needed to be done.

“No matter how small the increase is, it sends out a message that Travellers are increasingly placing value on the importance of education and it is essential that we build on that,” Mr Collins said.

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