Long-term jobless fill 1,500 posts

 

Jobstart, the £80-aweek subsidy scheme aimed at making recruitment of the long-term unemployed more attractive, has created over 1,500 jobs in its first year of operation. Nearly two-thirds of the jobs are in companies employing less than six people and two-thirds of recruits are men.

The average gross wage paid to trainees is about £160 a week and has been rising. This suggests that part of the slow uptake in the scheme originally was because some employers were offering very little on top of the Government subsidy.

The scheme encountered serious problems in its early stages. In its first three months only 130 people had been recruited.

When it was launched by the former minister for Enterprise and Employment, Mr Richard Bruton, in the summer of 1995 he said he expected 1,200 people to be recruited that year.

Besides the very low pay some employers were offering, many small businesses were also reported to be having difficulty complying with administrative requirements, especially the provision of tax clearance certificates. Of 400 initial enquiries to the state training agency FAS, it is understood that only 10 could comply with all the requirements.

The scheme was effectively relaunched late last year and it is now expected to meet its target of 5,000 jobs. The Irish Times has seen returns for Jobstart to the end of August 1997. These show that 1,528 people are currently involved in the scheme.

Of these 65 per cent are working with companies employing less than six people and 66 per cent were men. The age profile of participants shows that 53 per cent are aged between 20 and 30. Another 25 per cent are aged between 31 to 40 and the rest are in the older age groups.

The largest take-up of the scheme was by employers in the building and construction industry, who took on 170 employees. Next came professional services with 151 and personal services with 131.

Other sectors where the scheme was popular included retail distributors, which recruited 96 people, food industries which recruited 86 people and transport with 72 recruits reported. Agriculture, forestry and fishing accounted for 58 recruits, wood products 45, metal products and machinery 46 and other manufacturing concerns 57.

Print and publishing accounted for 35 recruits, textiles and footwear for 37 and wholesale distribution for 30. All other sectors accounted for significantly less. The public sector is recorded as accounting for just two.

People have to be out of work for at least three years before an employer can avail of the subsidy to recruit them. Because of the slow initial uptake, it was considered reducing the threshold because some employers were resistant to taking on workers who had been idle for so long.

However, that would have defeated the whole purpose of the scheme and all 1,528 people so far recruited had been out of work for at least the three-year period. Employers receive a subsidy of £4,160 over 52 weeks.

The appointment must not lead to the displacement of existing employees. Although the subsidy ends after 12 months, employers can apply for an extension of the PRSI exemption scheme for a further 12 months.