Written Answers. - Employment Support Services.

Michael Finucane

Question:

39 Mr. Finucane asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps she proposes to take to counter employment loss in the traditional sectors of industry with particular reference to a regional basis for growth and development. [7004/01]

John Browne

Question:

54 Mr. Browne (Carlow-Kilkenny) asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps she proposes to take to support firms in the clothing and other labour intensive sectors of Irish industry to enhance their productivity in the market. [6988/01]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 39 and 54 together.

Employment losses, whenever and wherever they occur, are of major concern to my Department and the agencies which report to it and are closely examined by those bodies as such losses can be tragic and traumatic for the individuals concerned. However, it is necessary to look at these losses in the context of the overall number of jobs created in agency assisted firms.
During 2000 there were approximately 44,000 job gains in agency assisted firms, which offset the job losses in similar firms of approximately 20,800 giving a net gain of approximately 23,200 during the year. Indeed, the figure for job gains was the highest achieved in the 1990s.
Analysis of the job losses shows that they reflect the gradual re-orientation of industry towards higher value added sectors and restructuring in the indigenous and foreign owned industrial base in response to intense competition in both domestic and export markets. A certain level of "job churn" is always to be expected in the economy and is not necessarily a bad thing, particularly if it leads to a shift in employment into higher productivity sectors thereby maintaining competitiveness.
Enterprise Ireland is the main agency responsible for the development of Irish industry, and is the principal agency dealing with the traditional industry sectors. A key focus of their interaction with clients across all sectors is to address competitiveness issues in order to improve productivity. In particular, Enterprise Ireland's business development model looks at production and operations related issues and the capability of companies in this regard.
Lower cost economies in Eastern Europe and Asia have a labour cost advantage over Ireland and other European economies in the manufacture of clothing. As a result, many companies have moved away from being traditional sub-contractors, into a more sustainable branded position. With the support of the development agencies, the emphasis of their business is moving away from being largely production led, to a more design, marketing and logistics led business.
This Government is committed to addressing job losses and general economic needs through a process of balanced regional development. The challenge of achieving balanced regional development is a multi-faceted one which is addressed in many aspects of the national development plan for the period 2000 to 2006. In so far as my own Department is concerned, the main emphasis is in relation to industrial development.
In conjunction with this, a focus on regional development is being implemented by the industrial development agencies. IDA Ireland has intensified its efforts to achieve a better distribution of overseas investment into the regions. Overall, 50% of all jobs negotiated by IDA Ireland during 2000 in new green field investment projects were secured for the Border, midland and western regions, which is ahead of the agency's expectations for the year. Enterprise Ireland has also developed a comprehensive approach to achieving balanced regional development.