§ 2. Mr. Thomas Cox
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many people aged under 21 years in Northern Ireland are unemployed; and what percentage of the work force this represents.
§ The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Adam Butler)
The monthly unemployment statistics do not show separately people aged under 21. The figure for January 1981 for unemployed persons under 20 was 20,754. This represents 3.6 per cent. of all employees in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Cox
Is the Minister aware that the significance of his reply is that, despite all the problems in Northern Ireland, there is still no hope of meaningful employment for thousands of young men and women? Is he not aware that Northern Ireland cries out for a stable industrial base that offers employment and training and that it wants to 972 get away from the utter stupidity of paying millions of pounds to keep people in unemployment? When will that message be understood by the Government?
§ Mr. Butler
I agree that the need is for a stable industrial base. That is what our policies are designed to procure. In the meantime we are taking steps to give employment to young people. As the hon. Gentleman is aware, we have increased the number of places on the youth opportunities programme by about 40 per cent. since the previous Administration were in power.
§ Mr. Bradford
What steps does the Minister intend to take to rejuvenate the construction industry in Northern Ireland? How many jobs have been lost in that industry since the moratorium was applied in July 1980?
§ Mr. Kilfedder
Does the Minister agree that the proposed expansion of the youth opportunities programme from 7,000 to 10,000 places is inadequate to deal with the appalling unemployment that exists for young people in the Province? Will he set up many more community workshops to help young unemployed people to learn industrial skills and arrange to increase the number of places at Govenment training centres?
§ Mr. Butler
With the resources available, the increase of 3,000 places on the youth opportunities programme is sufficient at this time, especially bearing in mind the resources that we are putting behind industrial development.
§ Mr. Pendry
Is the Minister aware that in addition to 10 per cent. of the unemployed being school leavers, 30 per cent. are under 21? Does he not recognise that by diminishing the training boards and Enterprise Ulster he is throwing many more young people on to the streets, which must in turn worsen the security situation?
§ Mr. Butler
Enterprise Ulster deals more with the long-term adult unemployed, although a few young people are given jobs by the scheme. We are continuing strongly with the Government's training programme at Government training centres and with employers. The schemes are fully supported and are doing valuable work.