Figures released by the Six-County department of enterprise on Wednesday [November 16] reveal that unemployment in the Six Counties currently stands at 114,000 people, and that one in five of 18-24 year olds are without work.
On the same day a Westminster study was released, which placed Foyle and West Belfast and 3rd and 4th respectively in a list of the 650 constituencies in Britain and the Six Counties with the highest unemployment figures. The two best performing constituencies in the Six Counties, North Down and South Antrim, were placed 310th and 324th respectively, so every constituency in the statelet is within the top 50 per cent for unemployment.
Given these developments, it was unsurprising that the launch of the Stormont administration’s Programme for Government 2011-15 on Thursday [November 17] would focus on job creation.
Printed at the very top of the 76-point plan is ‘support the promotion of over 25,000 new jobs’. Though it’s not exactly spelled out how these jobs might be achieved, on the same page as that first target there are references to attracting foreign direct investment and reducing the corporation tax rate.
There’s also a focus in the programme on the economic benefits of tourism, with pledges to ‘host a significant international Golf tournament’ as well as ‘marking the centenary of Titanic’s Maiden Voyage’. So even if 25,000 jobs were to be created, there’s no telling how well-paid (or otherwise) or long-term (or otherwise) they might be.
40,000 jobs are predicted to be lost in the Six Counties over the next four years as a result of the Tories’ agenda of cuts and austerity. There is nothing in the Programme to deal with this crisis. On top of that, the commitment in the Programme to introduce the Review of Public Administration, which will cut the number of local councils from 26 to 11, and to replace the five Education and Library Boards with the Education and Skills Authority, will inevitably lead to further job losses.
Rúnaí ginearálta éirígí Breandán Mac Cionnaith said: “What is clear from the Programme for Government is that making the Six Counties ‘more business-friendly’ will form the backbone of Stormont’s attempts to promote the creation of new jobs. Even at its most optimistic though, we can still predict net job losses over the next four years.
“We in éirígí have always stated that the British government is ultimately responsible for the cuts agenda and the attack jobs and services, but also that the Stormont administration is unwilling and unable to do anything to resist them.
“The major fight before us over the next few years will be to defend the pay and conditions of workers and to protect our public services. Working class communities and those workers organised in trade unions must take the lead in opposing the Tory agenda. Only a determined campaign of resistance, incorporating demonstrations and civil disobedience, can stop their plan.