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Written Answers. - Training and Unemployment.

Wednesday, 28 February 1996

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 462 No. 3

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 20. Mr. B. O'Keeffe Information on Batt O'Keeffe Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe  asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton  his views on the United Kingdom Employment Policy Institute report that stated that training is an expensive way of doing little about unemployment and has no measurable impact on economic growth or productivity. [18430/95]

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I presume the Deputy is referring to the UK Employment Policy Institute Report of November 1995, which comprises an Article by J.R. Shackleton, University of Westminster, entitled “The Skills Mirage”, a copy of which I have seen.

First, I would like to point out that this study is intended as a contribution to a policy debate, not here in Ireland, but in the United Kingdom, and refers to United Kingdom experiences and policies. Secondly, there is a difficulty in dealing with questions of the type posed by the Deputy, which run the obvious risk of selectivity and over-generalisation.

While there is much in the Shackleton Article which I find thought provoking I have to say, however, that there is ample evidence to suggest that meaningful training has an important role to play in Government strategy to reduce unemployment, particularly when it is complemented by other employment generating measures. Other support measures are also important — such as the development of the Local Employment Service which aims to facilitate the re-integration of the unemployed into the labour market. The Government has also adopted a number of employment measures in the areas of welfare, tax reform, public sector investment in job creation and wage subsidies to employers to recruit unemployed people.

As regards the second issue raised by Deputy O'Keeffe — that training has no measurable impact on the economic growth of productivity — the Shackleton article does recognise the existence of wide-ranging research suggesting a link between overall skill levels and the performance of the economy. He does [740] not refute this evidence, he merely suggests that there may be alternative explanations for some of the research findings, and that some claims made for the benefits of education and training may therefore be exaggerated. In this country, however, a whole succession of reports, including those by Culliton and NESC, highlight the strong link between capability enhancement in industry and improved competitiveness. Personally, I have no doubt whatever that increased investment in higher skill levels in Irish business and industry is vital to the maintenance of competitiveness.

I am now in the final stages of preparing a White Paper on Human Resource Development, which will detail the Government's training policy, not only for the unemployed, but those at work and early school leavers. The paper will obviously deal in more depth with the issues the Deputy has raised and, of course, many others also.

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