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Redundancy takes its toll

Last update - Thursday, July 16, 2009, 17:58 By Charlie Johnson

More than one out of every 10 Irish residents is unemployed – and unfortunately, it looks as if the figure will continue to rise before it falls.

The Irish National Organ-isation of the Unemployed (INOU) places the Standard-ised Unemployment Rate, which includes non-Irish citizens, at 11.9 per cent for the month of June – a big jump from the 10.2 per cent figure it quoted at March, but far less than it could actually wind up reaching.
 “Given how widespread this downturn is, how reliant Ireland is on what happens globally, how reliant we were on the construction industry and domestic consumption in keeping the Celtic Tiger going, or indeed overfeeding him, there is unfortunately no end in sight at present,” says Bríd O’Brien of the INOU.
“The rate of increase has started to slow but it will be a few years yet before we start to see unemployment decrease.”
Rising unemployment is hardly unique to Ireland, as countries around the world have seen jobless claims rise in the wake of the global recession, but the scope and speed of unemployment’s rise has been notably bad here.
“Ireland has dealt with large scale unemployment in the past. The challenge now is the speed at which unemployment has grown and the numbers now unemployed is of a far greater scale,” says O’Brien. 
“The INOU has coped with the additional workload because the work needs to be done. Needless to say it would be wonderful to have more resources to develop our work further but in the current climate of diminishing public finances it will be a challenge to keep doing this.”
As with all talk of statistics and budgets, it’s easy to forget that they reflect the toll being taken on human beings. With that in mind, Metro Éireann spoke to two of the many Irish unemployed – one an immigrant, the other a foreign wife of a native Irishman – to get their side of the story.
He might not have the requisite red passport, but ask Yatim and he will tell you: he’s Irish.
“You live in a country long enough, and you feel like you are a part of that country,” he says. “I work here, I brought my family here, my child was born here. This is home.”
And if living and working in Ireland for nine years isn’t enough to make him Irish, Yatim (not his real name) is currently experiencing a more recent hallmark of life as an Irish citizen – unemployment. 
A native of Malaysia, Yatim worked as a chef in Dublin, Mullingar and Kinnegad after arriving in 2000, before being laid off from his last job in January. 
Since then, Yatim has been unable to find work as a chef, the only profession his work permit allows him to hold. Having exhausted his family’s savings and loans, Yatim, his wife and two children are currently scraping by on a monthly social welfare payment of €400.
“It’s frustrating because I came here to work, not to collect a benefit,” says Yatim. “And, really, I am stuck here. I have a loan to pay, my family is here, our life is in Ireland now.”
What makes Yatim’s situation even more difficult are the recent changes to work permit regulations that require jobs to be advertised and made available to EU citizens before immigrants can be hired.
“I think that they want to give jobs to the locals. I think maybe some people just wish I would go home,” he says.
Yatim is currently being assisted by the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland to obtain a Stamp 4 residency permit, which would allow him to work in any field without a work permit – something he feels is necessary in what so far has been a fruitless search for employment.
“Sometimes I spend all day looking for a job,” he says. “I know it’s a bad time for everybody, but I hope the Irish don’t just abandon us just like that. There are a lot of people who live here who have made Ireland their home.”

For Fauzia McNulty’s husband Gerry, homecoming has not been a very welcoming affair. 
After working abroad for Aer Rianta International for 16 years, native Irishman McNulty was let go with no warning while the couple were living in Holland with their baby son, James.  Fauzia was forced to leave her job in Holland so the couple could return to Ireland.
“When we moved back in 2006, we had a great hope that he was coming back to his country, he has a lot of experience in warehousing and logistics, but it has been an extremely hard time for us,” she says. “We had three people living in one room for six months.”
While her husband looked for work, Fauzia – who has an MBA – took a flexitime shift job at a nearby Dunnes Stores, even though she had a six-month-old baby to look after. 
The couple managed to find a permanent place to live in Shannon on a personal loan, and Fauzia later found more regular work in a pharmacy – until she was let go without any notice one Friday afternoon.
“You have no notice, and your husband has no job, and all you can wonder is how can you pay the bills. How can people do things like that?”
Not meeting the requirements for full unemployment benefit, the McNultys have since been surviving mainly on a weekly stipend of €375 – barely enough to keep the three of them fed and a roof over their heads. 
So far, the search for work has been fruitless for both, and Fauzia was recently turned down for a job as a cleaner because her MBA “overqualified” her.
“We sit around and think about how we made a mistake to come here. And I think that’s the worst part,” she says. “Okay, I’m not Irish, but my husband is an Irishman who came back to his own country with the hope he can get something. He came back here with hope, but there has been nothing.”

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