29/01/2010

Construction Unemployed 'Tip Of Iceberg'

There are fears that the real number of construction workers on the dole could be double the official statistic.

On paper, there are now more than 13,000 people from the NI construction industry out of work and claiming benefits, according to the latest figures from the Construction Employers' Federation (CEF).

However, the CEF Managing Director, John Armstrong, has told the BBC that this was just the tip of the iceberg.

"Because of the high levels of self-employment, the number of people in the construction industry currently out of work is probably double that."

Mr Armstrong said that in six out of the 18 Parliamentary constituencies, more than 1,000 people from the construction industry were claiming benefits.

He said that in two constituencies, south Down and mid-Ulster, more than 50% of claimants were from the construction sector.
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As an unrelated political turmoil at Hillsborough reached a crisis at the end of January, the message to all political parties was clear.

He said this was to set out clearly in their election manifestos how they intended to help these people, and how they intended to support the construction sector.

"Investment in construction means building the schools, hospitals, roads, and housing needed to rebuild a modern and vibrant economy when the recovery comes," he said, noting that, more than any other sector of the economy, construction was an essential catalyst for economic growth.

"Figures compiled towards the end of last year," he said, "show that every pound invested in construction generates £2.85 in other areas of the economy.

"For every pound invested in road-building, the figure is closer to £4.50."

Mr Armstrong said the CEF was also concerned about the effect of the proposed cuts in public spending.

"We hope that the Executive will not take the easy option of cutting capital spending and construction projects," he said.

(BMcC/GK)

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