Written Answers. - Job Initiative.

Louis J. Belton

Question:

96 Mr. Belton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps she proposes to take to facilitate the recruitment of over 55s into the labour force in relation to the recommendations of the expert group on future skills needs. [6989/01]

John Perry

Question:

119 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the plans she has to allow senior citizens to re-enter the work force on a part-time basis in view of the labour shortage here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7604/01]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 96 and 119 together.

The economic boom means that there are plenty of employment opportunities available for all those who are in a position to avail of them. Labour shortages mean that employers have to look at all available sources to meet their needs. The importance of older people in the workforce will grow in coming years with the population under 25 set to fall while the numbers in the older age groups are forecast to rise. Given these trends, we have to look at ways of encouraging older people, embracing retired persons and women in the home, who wish to do so, to return to the workforce, as well as assisting older unemployed in their transition to employment.
The Government's policy of reducing the overall tax burden on labour, the reform of the tax system and the individualisation of the standard rate tax band all serve to increase the incentive to persons returning to work. This policy will act as an incentive for older people to continue working, for women returnees and older unemployed to seek and take up a job and for retired persons to return to the workforce, especially those who may wish to work part-time to supplement their income.
As part of further initiatives in this area, I am asking FÁS to examine the immediate steps that can be taken to afford older persons the appropriate opportunities to take up suitable vacancies, and in exploring possibilities to hold discussions with employer organisations about those issues. Longer-term issues in that area of pensions, for example, will also need consideration.