Page last updated at 12:23 GMT, Thursday, 3 September 2009 13:23 UK

Employment pledge 'may be missed'

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The Welsh assembly government is failing to meet self-imposed employment targets

A pledge to get 80% of adults of working age in Wales into employment is unlikely to be met, an assembly government minister has admitted.

Schemes to put more people in work will meet only half the shortfall as the employment rate stands at 69.7%, said Education Minister Jane Hutt.

The assembly government said it was drawing up a new employment strategy.

But opposition politicians said that setting such a high target was "unrealistic".

Ms Hutt presented a paper to the assembly government's cabinet setting out the need for a strategy with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

These papers clearly show they cannot blame the recession alone for failing to achieve their 80% target themselves
Alun Cairns AM, Conservative

She said that only half the increase in employment needed could be delivered under current programmes - and even that may be optimistic.

She said her comments related to long-term strategies and not the short-term measures taken to alleviate the recession.

The Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition assembly government has admitted its pledge of 80% employment was not on course to be met.

An assembly government spokesman said it had made significant improvements in the Welsh labour market and was working with the DWP and Job Centre Plus in the development of a labour market strategy for Wales.

Conservative industry spokesman Alun Cairns told BBC Radio Wales the papers were a "stark admission of government failure" not only for the Labour-Plaid coalition but over the past 10 years, yet there was no change in policy.

He said: "These papers clearly show they cannot blame the recession alone for failing to achieve their 80% target themselves.

'Slow to react'

"It's an abject failure to those 37,000 people who have lost their job in the last 12 months and the quarter of the workforce who really should be in work and they're not."

Liberal Democrat economy spokesperson Jenny Randerson accused the assembly government of being slow to react to a problem which existed before the coalition agreement drawn up by Labour and Plaid.

She welcomed the co-ordination proposals but added "it doesn't mean that we have to march entirely to the UK government's tune".

The assembly government has received plaudits from many quarters for its response to the recession including training scheme for companies in danger of making redundancies.

Also recent unemployment figures show Wales is bucking the UK trend.

'Unachievable'

However, an independent report commissioned by the Wales Employment and Skills Board, which advises the assembly government, concluded that many employers in Wales were confused about the various schemes to put unemployed people back in work.

Sue Williams, youth co-ordinator for the Aberfan and Merthyr Vale Youth and Community Project, told Radio Wales she had always thought the 80% employment target unachievable.

She said: "I find the plans to train the young jobless [in] potential growth areas, including retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism, all very well but there needs to be proper jobs in there in the first place."

Swansea University economics professor David Blackaby said the assembly government's employment target was put in place in June 2007 when the economy was booming.

He said: "So it was very laudable to attempt to achieve such a target because we know that with such a target we would see a fall in poverty rates and an increase in welfare.

"We might argue that in hindsight it might have been better to have set a rate of catching up with the UK, rather than an absolute rate, because the recession came and obviously it's not achievable at the moment."

In her paper to cabinet, Ms Hutt responded by saying the assembly government strategy was built around catering to employers' needs.



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