Much has been made this week of the sight of hundreds of people queueing along St Stephen’s Green North in the hope of securing one of 150 supermarket jobs on offer from the Griffin-Londis group.  Anne Marie Hourihane does a good piece about it in today’s Irish Times, and she is the first journalist I have seen putting a positive slant on the story.  It would seem obvious that a story about the creation of 150 new jobs in the depths of a recession is a good news story.  All of the media coverage I have seen (except from Ms Hourihane) has used this story to tell us how awful things really are.  It’s all doom and gloom with thousands of people out of work and desperate for any job they can get, even a basic supermarket job.  Many have said that it was a throwback to the eighties, except I don’t remember people queueing around the block for jobs in the eighties.  I do, however, remember people queueing down Pembroke Road in an attempt to get out of the country.

150 new jobs is a good news story.  The fact that so many of our young people are willing to queue for up to two hours in the hope of an interview for even the most basic of jobs is also a good news story – or is it.  Séamus Griffin, managing director of the Griffin-Londis group had an interesting statistic  for Ann Marie Hourihan.  Only 2.5% of those in the queue were Irish nationals.  This is a stunning, if not surprising, figure. 

According to the CSO, non-Irish nationals made up 20.4% of the live register for March 2009.  In the same month it was estimated that non-Irish nationals made up 16% of the available workforce.  This could tell us that foreign nationals are over represented in the ranks of the unemployed by about 4%.  However, if foreign nationals, as Séamus Griffin tells us, make up 97.5% of a queue for a job in a supermarket, we must question, as Ann Marie Hourihan did, where all the potential Irish supermarket workers are.  Irish people acount for 80% of the unemployed in the state and yet they seem uninterested in taking a job which, I assume, they feel is beneath them.

To continue to claim unemployment benefit one must satisfy the authorities that one is actively seeking employment.  Given the massive imbalance in Mr Griffin’s queue last Wednesday I would wonder how assiduosly this is checked before the dole money is shoved accross the counter each week.

Ms. Horihane concludes her article with the following question, ‘When the day comes that the Irish are the dominant nationality working in the Londis stores will that mean that our economy has hit rock bottom? Or will it mean that it has returned, at last, to normality ?’  A good question indeed.

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Inidcently, looking at census figures, as I did for this post, can throw up the most extraordinarily quirky figures.  For instance, on census night in April 2006 there were 63,276 Poles living in Ireland.  On the same night there were 10,126 poles who were visiting but not living in Ireland.  That means that about one in six Polish people living here in 2006 had family or friends visiting on census night.  Amazing!

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