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Delivering Sustainable Full Employment: Statements (Continued)

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 911 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor: Information on Mary Mitchell O'Connor Zoom on Mary Mitchell O'Connor] We want to see greater numbers of enterprises engaging in research and development and more enterprises progressing to a point where innovation is embedded as a key part of their business model. I will work with the Minister of State, Deputy John Halligan, to ensure that the Department's investments in research and development, through Science Foundation Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and the IDA, are central to delivering jobs. SFI invests €160 million each year.

Getting people back to work is a key priority. The Action Plan for Jobs complements the Government's Pathways to Work strategy. The pathways strategy sets out actions to be taken in support of those who are currently unemployed. My Department and its agencies work primarily to create jobs but also to combat and reduce unemployment. The enterprise agencies protocol, overseen by my Department, ensures Government offices at local and regional level work together to maximise live register recruitment into enterprise agency client companies. This means that if there is a jobs announcement, the IDA representative, for example, will be the contact for the local Intreo office. They will work together to connect clients from the live register with job opportunities. Local enterprise offices, Enterprise Ireland and Údarás na Gaeltachta are all connected through this protocol, sharing best practices in a joined-up approach to job placement.

We will continue to work with colleagues across Government to ensure that all of those who want a job are equipped with the skills required. We will continue to focus on initiatives to help our young people to meet their potential. We will provide a diverse range of choices on leaving secondary education, a strategy that is regarded as a key success factor in countries with low levels of youth unemployment. Countries such as Austria and Germany provide a wide range of options from conventional higher education routes to high quality apprenticeships. The new apprenticeship programme provides new opportunities for our young people to find rewarding careers. It covers a wide range of sectors, such as manufacturing and engineering, tourism and sport, financial services, transport distribution and logistics.

The Action Plan for Jobs is working and we are making good progress towards our goal of deliverable, sustainable full employment. However, we cannot be complacent. We remain vulnerable to external shocks, such as Brexit, increases in oil prices and exchange rate movement. We must continue to work towards building a sustainable economy with sustainable jobs. This is essential to generate the resources we need to provide better public services. Urban and rural communities that have not yet felt the benefits of our strengthening economy will be prioritised and enabled to realise their potential.

I have asked my Department to initiate the process to develop the 2017 Action Plan for Jobs. This will start in June. We will consult widely with external stakeholders over the coming months to gather the best ideas for job creation. I ask colleagues across the Chamber to bring any plans or good ideas from their local areas to me. While significant progress has been made, we will maintain our focus on getting people back to work. My priority is to deliver a business environment which enhances our competitiveness and supports sustainable enterprise and employment growth in all regions of Ireland.

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins I welcome the opportunity to make a statement on jobs - an issue that is relevant to everybody in the country, employed or unemployed, business people and people trying to promote business.

The narrative in regard to job creation must change a little. We hear a lot of spin from government and claims about job creation but we must ensure the narrative around the issue recognises that jobs are created by entrepreneurs and business people, not the Government. The Government however does create the conditions that allow job creation to happen. It is wrong of the Government to take ownership of actions in terms of job creation when it is the people who take the risk in expanding their businesses who create the jobs and pay the wages of employees.

I welcome the fact that our economy is improving and that the trend is in the right direction but there are still more than 300,000 people on the live register and there is little comfort for the Government in that. The perfect economic storm we experienced must be seen as the backdrop to this issue. The economy has benefited from low interest rates, a favourable euro currency exchange rate with sterling and the dollar and historically low energy importation costs. However, we face stark challenges in regard to retaining existing jobs and attracting the establishment of businesses in the future. These challenges range from Brexit, declining competitiveness, infrastructure deficits, rising business costs, failed activation schemes, for example, JobBridge, to skills shortages. Previous governments have neglected job creation in the regions. We know that and the figures prove it. I represent the mid-west region and one only needs to talk to people in my neck of the woods to be made aware of the position. The figures issued by the CSO in recent days show this to be true.

The two-tier recovery has taken hold and has concentrated growth disproportionately. Fianna Fáil believes in a country where decent, hard working people can thrive, not just survive. We must recognise that people who are working must be able to thrive rather than just work to get by. While the latest CSO job figures are welcome, with unemployment under 8% nationally, challenges still exist regarding the type of jobs we have. We had debate in this House over the past two nights on many of the challenges that exist - zero-hour contracts, minimum wage and an acceptable living wage. It is unacceptable that more than a fifth, 21%, of Irish people live in jobless households. In some households, there is generational joblessness. The number of jobless households is almost double the EU average. The underlying precariousness of work must be addressed to deliver decent jobs with decent pay to enable workers to meet weekly financial commitments. This need too was underlined in debate over the past nights. People on zero-hour contracts cannot make any life plans and cannot enter any financial commitments.

Fianna Fáil has consistently put forward a suite of measures to encourage entrepreneurship and domestic job creation, including a proposal for the most competitive entrepreneur CGT rate of any party and a proposal to end the tax inequity faced by the self-employed. SMEs continue to be choked for credit and there is a serious problem in that regard. Fianna Fáil has been relentless in advocating the creation of a State enterprise bank, by licensing the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland to lend directly to businesses.

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