An Taoiseach Enda Kenny has warned Ireland could no longer afford to tolerate a “passive” welfare system that consigned large numbers of people to welfare dependency.
Tackling long-term unemployment would be the toughest challenge the Government had to face, he said.
And it needed to “revolutionise” the concept of the old social welfare office to tap into the talent of those who were on the Live Register.
Mr Kenny was speaking at the launch of an evaluation of one of the Government’s flagship back-to-work schemes, JobBridge, which he said was “delivering” for thousands of jobseekers.
His comments came as the latest jobless figures show that unemployment has continued to fall with 12,000 fewer people on the Live Register than at this time last year.
There are now 417,593 people signing on compared with 430,001 a year ago.
But on a seasonally adjusted basis the numbers on the Live Register fell by just 100 in April compared with the previous month. And an extra 2,000 workers have been out of work for over a year, bringing the total number of long-term unemployed up to 186,063.
These long-term unemployed now constitute 44.6pc of all those on the dole, which is up from 42.8pc a year ago.
The number of men on the Live Register fell by 4.5pc over the year to 265,017, while the number of female claimants was almost unchanged at 152,576.
Craft and related workers remain the biggest occupational group on the Live Register, though their numbers fell by 9pc in the year to 94,105.
The Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME) said the figures were horrific, particularly the increase in long-term unemployment, and the Government would have to invest in a job-rich infrastructure project to kick-start economic revival.
“The self-praise, back-slapping and box-ticking of the failing Action Plan for Jobs must stop and be replaced with a complete overhaul of our competitiveness,” said ISME chief executive Mark Fielding.
Since it was set up in 2011, more than 16,000 people have taken part in the JobBridge scheme in more than 6,700 organisations.
It allows those who have been on the Live Register for at least three months to get an internship with a participating company and to receive a weekly €50 top-up on their existing social welfare benefits.
But there have been some claims that the scheme was being used by a handful of employers to replace paid employees with cheap interns.
Since it was set up, 1,700 monitoring visits have led to 15 firms being prohibited from future involvement “for failing to comply with the scheme’s requirements”. Source: Irish Independent