The Government's jobs initiative of May 2011 was aimed at restoring confidence in the economy, providing opportunities for re-skilling those who had lost jobs and assisting people in getting back to work. Key measures in the jobs initiative included halving the rate of employer's PRSI on earnings up to €356 per week, a reduction in the lower rate of VAT on certain goods and services, targeted capital spending on labour-intensive projects, and the introduction of the national internship scheme, JobBridge. Additional education and training places were also provided for those seeking to upskill.
The impact of these measures is being seen across a range of sectors, but particularly in the tourism and hospitality sectors where the latest quarterly national household survey, published today, shows a year-on-year increase of 8,700 in the numbers employed in the accommodation and food service sectors. Almost 7,500 interns have commenced placements under the JobBridge programme since it was launched last July. Feedback from the Department of Social Protection indicates that 966 of the 2,575 people who have already completed JobBridge have gone directly into employment with the host organisation or elsewhere. More than 3,500 people recently graduated from the first round of Springboard programmes, which were put in place in 2011, and the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Ruairí Quinn, recently announced a further roll-out of the Springboard initiative with an additional 6,000 places in 2012.
The Government has built on the jobs initiative this year with its action plan for jobs and the Pathways to Work strategy, adding a significant range of actions to promote employment and assist those seeking work. Pathways to Work places a particular focus on the long-term unemployed, while the new €20 million labour market education and training fund will include specific provision for those under 25 years of age. FÁS has issued a call for expressions of interest from training and education providers in regard to this fund.
In the three years prior to the Government taking office, more than 300,000 jobs were lost. This scale of job loss cannot be reversed overnight, but we are systematically delivering on the commitments we made in the action plan for jobs and Pathways to Work. While employment may fluctuate from quarter to quarter in this transition phase of our economic recovery, the significant job announcements since January - which include BSkyB, Mylan, Apple, Eli Lilly, PayPal and others - point to the return of a level of confidence in the Irish economy that will translate into an increase in the number of people in employment as the jobs come on stream.