By Steph Brawn & Julett Pineda

ALMOST one in four households in Inverclyde is workless, new data has revealed.

Figures show that 23.9 per cent of households in the district were occupied by adults who were all either economically inactive or unemployed at the end of last year.

It means the area has the third highest proportion of jobless households in Scotland after Dundee and Glasgow. 

The local statistic is almost 10 per cent higher than the UK average and more than five per cent above the Scottish average.

Figures also indicate a spike in the number of workless households between 2018 and 2019, with the level sitting at less than one in five two years ago. 

The research suggests there is a bigger issue with unemployment in Inverclyde than in some of its neighbouring local authorities, such as Renfrewshire - where 18.2 per cent of households were workless last year - and North Ayrshire, where just over 20 per cent were out of work.

The situation could now be worsened by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, despite the UK Government’s efforts in implementing the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Ronnie Cowan, Inverclyde’s MP, says unemployment continues to be a 'scar' on the community and he has called on all levels of government to commit to focusing on job creation and investing in infrastructure.

The SNP man said: “The figures are concerning, firstly, because they are so high.

"The vast majority of people want to work.

"Having so many households without work is not healthy.

“My second concern is that, while the proportion of workless households decreased in more local areas of Great Britain than it increased in 2018 and 2019, in Inverclyde, after a small decrease in 2018, it is now higher than it was in 2017.

“Unemployment has long been a scar on our community and we must address it.

“During the Covid crisis, we have seen both UK and Scottish governments go to extreme levels to support companies and employees. "They have shown it is possible to support people in the workplace. "They must now take that commitment forward and invest in the infrastructure of Scotland and Inverclyde. "

Mr Cowan says he hopes to see imaginative projects brought forward to generate jobs and economic activity in the area.

He said: “We face uncertain times but renewable energy and environmental projects must continue regardless and Inverclyde is a perfect place to develop them.

“Prior to lockdown, I was starting to look at reforestation in Inverclyde in a big way.

"It’s environmentally correct, it creates spin-off industries and it creates jobs.

"Job creation is vital in addressing so many of society’s ills.

“The UK Government must invest in Scotland, the Scottish Government must look west of Glasgow Airport and the local council must do everything it can to generate jobs in Inverclyde and regenerate our community from within.”

Statistics from the UK Government show almost a quarter of posts eligible for the Job Retention Scheme in Inverclyde have been furloughed, with 8,300 people now receiving 80 per cent pay through the initiative.

The take-up rate, however, is the lowest in mainland Scotland, with only the Western Isles having a lower rate of furloughed jobs.

The UK and Scottish Governments, along with Inverclyde Council, said they were committed to working with businesses to protect jobs.

Fiona Hyslop, Scottish Government economy secretary, said: “Our work to prioritise those hardest hit by this pandemic is clear through our commitment of at least £50 million for youth employment and the Scottish Job Guarantee, as well as our dedicated Transition Training Fund, which will provide opportunities to upskill and transition into employment.

“We are also focused on generating significant economic growth through further action to support our small and medium-sized businesses, proposals to alleviate planning restraints and our commitment to continue working closely with business leaders to ensure we are doing all we can.”

A UK Government spokesman added: “Our Plan for Jobs is focused on getting Britain working again, with Scotland receiving a share of almost £28billion to support local councils, businesses and communities in fighting this pandemic.

“We’re also boosting our flexible support fund by £150 million, allowing our jobcentres to put in place the right support for their community. And we are doubling the number of work coaches across jobcentres.”

A council spokesman said: “The council has previously raised the issues around depopulation and the significant levels of deprivation reported at the beginning of this year.

"Inverclyde has been hit hard by Covid-19 and there is a clear need to support the economy.”