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 Header Item Adjournment Debate Matters (Continued)
 Header Item Delivering Sustainable Full Employment: Statements

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 911 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy John Lahart: Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart] The matters raised by Deputies Maurice Quinlivan, Richard Boyd Barrett, Hildegarde Naughton and James Browne have been selected for discussion.

Delivering Sustainable Full Employment: Statements

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor): Information on Mary Mitchell O'Connor Zoom on Mary Mitchell O'Connor I welcome the opportunity to address the House on the important issue of delivering sustainable full employment and getting people back to work. A Programme for a Partnership Government is ambitious and it is our ambition to help to create 200,000 additional jobs by 2020, including 135,000 jobs outside Dublin. We also want to reduce the unemployment rate to 6% and our target this year is to add 50,000 new jobs. We have made a good start, with more than 15,000 new jobs being created in the first three months of 2016.

In early 2012 the first Action Plan for Jobs was launched. At the time the unemployment rate was above 15%. In May this year it fell to 7.8%. Some 155,000 more people are in employment today than in 2012. This surpasses the original target of having an extra 100,000 people at work by the end of 2016. The Government is committed to sustaining this rate of job creation and delivering sustainable full employment by 2020.

I propose to address the Action Plan for Jobs, one of the Government's key instruments to support job creation. The objective has been to rebuild the economy based on enterprise, talent, innovation and exports. The Action Plan for Jobs is working and employment continues to grow strongly. In the year to the end of March 2016 it grew in 12 of the 14 economic sectors, with the largest employment increases recorded in the tourism and hospitality sectors, where it increased by 10,500 jobs; construction where it increased by 9,500 jobs; and administrative and support service activities, where it increased by 6,400 jobs. These sectors were hard hit by the recession and the new jobs being created are across all skill and qualification levels.

The enterprise agencies of my Department, Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland and the local enterprise offices or LEOs, have been pivotal in addressing the jobs challenge in recent years. Employment in agency-supported companies increased by 22,000 in 2015 and 192,000 people are now employed directly in Enterprise Ireland-supported companies. Enterprise Ireland also supports approximately 200,000 indirect jobs in the wider economy. These jobs are supported by purchases of raw materials and services in the local economy by exporting firms. Total direct and indirect employment in Enterprise lreland-supported companies accounts for one in every five jobs in Ireland. IDA Ireland secured 213 new investments in 2015 and more than 187,000 people are now directly employed by client companies.

As I indicated, the numbers of people out of work have declined considerably since the peak in 2012. However, unemployment remains too high, particularly among young people. In May 2016 the rate of youth unemployment stood at 15%, down from 20.8% in 2015. This figure remains too high and the Government will focus on reducing it further.

The number of people who are long-term unemployed also declined in the past year, from 127,000 to 100,000, although this is still 100,000 too many. While the reduction of 27,000 is welcome, I am conscious that we must continue to focus our efforts on reducing the rate of long-term unemployment further.

Women are more likely to work part time than men, with women accounting for two thirds of part-time workers. In some cases, working part time is by choice and it is positive that these flexible opportunities are available. There are also people working part time who would work additional hours if available. Overall, part-time under-employment is falling, having declined by 13.7% in the year to March 2016. Under-employment among women fell by 15.1% in the past year. A further challenge is ensuring more women participate in the labour market. The overall participation rate in the labour force is 60%. For men, it is 67% and for women, 53%.

Stimulating regional growth is vital. In 2015 we developed eight regional action plans for jobs to ensure the recovery would be felt in every region. We set up a regional implementation committee to oversee and drive each plan. Membership is drawn from industry, local authorities, the enterprise agencies, the education sector and other key local and regional stakeholders. The overall target is to increase employment in each region by between 10% and 15% by 2020. We also want to reduce each region's unemployment rate to within 1% of the State average. Unemployment has declined significantly in all regions since 2012. According to the latest data from the Central Statistics Office, the mid-east region had the lowest unemployment rate, at 5.9%. The fastest growing regions in terms of employment in the past year were Dublin, the mid-west and the midlands.

In 2015 almost two thirds of the new jobs created by Enterprise Ireland clients and more than half of the jobs in IDA Ireland-supported companies were outside Dublin. I want to give the message loud and clear that 20,000 jobs created in the past year were outside Dublin. Enterprise Ireland-supported companies created an additional 6,500 jobs outside Dublin last year. In 2015 the local enterprise offices delivered another strong performance, supporting the creation of over 3,500 new jobs. They also provided mentoring for 8,000 participants and training courses for 27,000 participants.

Initiatives such as the regional Action Plans for Jobs, the 2016 action plan and the ongoing work of Enterprise Iceland, IDA Ireland and local enterprise offices are an important part of our efforts to create jobs across the country. I will continue to roll out competitive regional funding initiatives that will deliver on the potential of local and regional strengths. The first progress reports on the implementation of the regional action plans will be completed and published in the second half of the year.

Innovation is at the heart of Government policy on enterprise. It plays a crucial role in creating and maintaining employment and attracting, developing and nurturing business. Our strategy, Innovation 2020, sets out our vision to become a global innovation leader.

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