There have been four plenary meetings of the Central Review Committee under the Programme for Competitiveness and Work. The committee is assisted in its work of reviewing and monitoring progress in implementing the programme by a secretariat group representative of relevant Government Departments and the social partners. The secretariat group has also met on four occasions.
The committee has discussed many issues arising out of the programme and also matters of concern to the social partners. The issues of the economy, employment and unemployment, particularly long term unemployment, have been of central concern to the committee, which discussed them at their last meeting of the committee on 29 September in the context of the improved economic outlook. The committee agreed to explore the potential for making updated recommendations to Government as envisaged in the Programme for Competitiveness and Work, for consideration in the context of the 1995 budget. The Government looks forward to the receipt of these recommendations which we will consider very carefully.
The procedure now being adopted by the committee marks a further deepening of the partnership process in support of the shared objectives for growth and employment. I would like to compliment all of the social partners for their contributions to this process.
In relation to employment prospects, the indicators both direct and indirect for 1994 support the view that employment will grow strongly in 1994. The estimates for employment creation over the year continue to improve and the Government, along with independent forecasters, is now expecting about 28,000 new jobs to be created this year compared to predictions of 21,000 at the time of publication of the Programme for Competitiveness and Work. This is reflected in the fact that the numbers on the register now stand at some 20,000 lower than at the beginning of 1994. The Government expects that as employment continues to grow so unemployment will continue to decline. We are, however, in no way complacent and look forward to the updated recommendations from the Central Review Committee, to which I have referred, as an important contribution to action to intensify the improvement in employment and unemployment we have seen this year.