Alarm over rising long term unemployment

Photo Colm Lenaghan / Pacemaker Press
Photo Colm Lenaghan / Pacemaker Press

Long term unemployment in Derry has risen by 62% in just three years, official figures reveal.

Derry SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood said the rising figures reinforces the need for the North West to be “provided with Enterprise Zone status without undue delay.”

The government figures, obtained by from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) reveal that in June 2010, a total of 1,240 people in the Derry City Council area were classed as long term unemployed - that is claiming unemployment benefits for more than a year.

By June of this year, that figure rose to 2,005 - a spike of some 62%. More than one in three people on the dole in Derry have been out of work for over a year.

Mr Eastwood said the “scourge of long-term unemployment holds the most profound dangers for this city.”

“The tragedy of these figures is that many, if not most, of those categorised as being long-term unemployed are young people. The warnings given, about the cultivation of a lost generation, are no exaggeration.

“As has often been repeated, the best social programme is a job.”

He continued:”The recent economic package agreed between the British Prime Minister and the Executive finally acknowledged Stormont’s ability to introduce Enterprise Zones in the North.

“These zones bring with them the advantage of rates rebates, tax breaks and university-related hubs.”

Around 20 such zones have already been created in the north of England.

“So the challenge is clear for Stormont’s current leadership,” Mr Eastwood added.

“If they are serious about tackling the unemployment crisis in this city, if they are truly serious about tackling regional economic inequality, the North West should now be provided with Enterprise Zone status without undue delay. “

The figures further detail that Derry has the second highest number of long term unemployed across the North’s 26 local council areas - in Belfast a total of 4,455 have been out of work for over 12 months.

The city also has the second highest rate of long term unemployment in the North, with 34.2% of all those out of work classed as a long term claimant.

Newry and Mourne, at 34.7% of all those out of work, has the North’s highest rate of long term unemployment.

Last week the latest unemployment figures showed a total of 5,973 people are currently claiming unemployment related benefits in the Derry City Council area.

Sinn Fein MLA Raymond McCartney said tackling unemployment effectively can only happen when the North breaks from “ the restrictive and repressive link with British economic policy dictated by Whitehall for the benefit of the City of London and demand the transfer of maximum fiscal powers to the Assembly.”