Other Questions

Youth Unemployment Data

John Browne

Question:

48. Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for Jobs; Enterprise and Innovation if he has had any discussions with the Department of Social Protection regarding plans for the introduction of a youth guarantee scheme as part of the EU presidency in 2013; his views on whether this goes far enough in tackling youth unemployment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41645/12]

The European Commission has signalled its intention to bring forward proposals to combat youth unemployment and support transition to work through a range of measures such as youth guarantees, activation measures targeting young people, the quality of traineeships, and youth mobility. The proposed measures follow upon the call by the European Council on 29 June that urged member states to step up efforts to increase youth employment, with "the objective that within a few months of leaving school, young people receive a good quality offer of employment, continued education, apprenticeship or a traineeship".

My colleague the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, was invited to the Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection on 26 September to outline the business of the forthcoming formal meeting of the Employment and Social Affairs Council, EPSCO, in Luxembourg on 4 October and to brief the joint committee on her priorities for the forthcoming EU Presidency in the first half of 2013. The Minister, Deputy Burton, informed the joint committee that the European Commission is expected to publish a set of proposals in early December in the form of a youth transitions package. The main element of the forthcoming package is expected to be a proposal for a youth guarantee aiming to ensure targeted young people are either working or in appropriate training or work experience within a specified time after becoming unemployed. The objective of the Commission’s proposal is to intensify actions at EU and member state level aimed at addressing the high level of youth unemployment across Europe.

My Department is responsible for convening an interdepartmental committee to co-ordinate policy in regard to the work of the EPSCO. I can confirm that there are continuing discussions involving the Department of Social Protection, the Department of Education and Skills and my Department, among others, regarding the possible content of the expected European Commission proposals, how they can be best adapted to the most urgent needs in the differing labour market circumstances of the EU member states in order to support young people in securing access to good quality apprenticeships, traineeship contracts and entrepreneurial skills, as well as modernising education and training systems to better reflect labour market needs.

I will have an opportunity on Wednesday, that is tomorrow, to discuss the Commission’s proposed measures directly with László Andor, the EU Commissioner responsible for employment, social affairs and inclusion. I will assure Commissioner Andor that the incoming Presidency will co-operate with the European Commission to secure early adoption by the Council in 2013 of measures designed to encourage EU member states to strengthen co-operation among employment services and other labour market stakeholders, including the social partners and education and training bodies to target young people.

I have been a little untidy in that I should have been restricting the supplementary questions and the replies thereto to one minute each.

The Acting Chairman has been quite tidy for me up to now.

The Minister cannot believe the answer he has given. He had a considerable track record going into this Department. We have a 30% youth unemployment rate. The rate in Europe is 23%, the common rate having regard to all labour market conditions in Europe. Therefore, we have a serious problem, yet we get more words and verbiage. The European Commission does not understand the seriousness of this problem or, if it does, it is doing nothing about it.

When the Minister, together with almost the entire Government, go to Brussels tomorrow, can he emphasise that in Ireland, Spain, Greece and all of the member states the biggest issue to be faced is youth unemployment. Young people are not getting their chance. Deputy Tóibín referred to the brain drain out of this country in terms of emigration. The statistics reveal that 65% of young people now report their principal status as a student compared to 51% four years earlier. People are going down the education route. They are doing many things to avoid becoming an unemployment statistic. We have 306,000 people unemployed in this country, yet big companies tell us they cannot fill vacancies. I ask the Minister why do we not take action in Ireland and put in place an upskilling programme in the IT sector? It would involve the Minister's Department and the Department of Education and Skills. Surely the vacancies that are in the technical sector can be filled by those who are unemployed, particularly those who are classified as youth unemployed.

As there are three other Members who wish to put questions, does the Minister wish to hear their questions before he addresses this one?

Perhaps he should address this one first.

Okay, but I remind Members that we are working against the clock on these.

With respect to Deputy Calleary, the question he put down was on the EU Presidency and asking a supplementary question about a national initiative-----

My question was whether this goes far enough in tackling youth unemployment. Youth unemployment is what I am interested in here. What is being done about it?

The position in regard to the Presidency is that it is seeking to have a youth guarantee scheme adopted but there is no financial mechanism attached to it. What it is considering is that it would be embodied in the reviews by the EU of the employment policies of different countries.

They will be looking to see to what extent countries are embodying youth initiatives. The Government has a number of such initiatives, including Springboard, JobBridge, Tús and so on, which do not come under my Department's remit but about which I am aware.

The Commission is establishing a specific preparatory pilot scheme and it will give an opportunity for member states to develop models. I understand non-governmental organisations, which are interested in applying for this, should contact the Department of Education and Skills.

There is a question later on the wider issue of youth unemployment, which I will be happy to address then. It is a much wider issue than the Commission's specific initiative. The policy changes are those that have been brought in. JobBridge, for example, has had 7,000 participants through it and it is achieving a 40% placement rate. Springboard has had an equally good take up and success rate. These innovative policy instruments have proved successful and Ministers will look to build on those.

Will the three Members ask their final supplementary questions before the Minister replies because we are running out of time for this question?

The youth unemployment figures are unbelievable. A total of 5 million young people are unemployed in Europe currently while, in this State, 30% of young people are unemployed with 50% long-term unemployed. The Minister mentioned the preparatory action. The Commission has allocated €4 million for this, which equates to 80 cent per unemployed youth in the State. That is laughable if one is looking to tackle this issue. There are 7,000 participants in JobBridge but 1,600 people are emigrating on a weekly basis. The amount allocated is nowhere near proportionate. What budget is necessary to deal with this problem? Where will be Minister get this money? Will it be through Europe or the Government?

How will the Minister pull off this conjuring trick if the methods he uses are the ones he is currently employing and seriously failing with? He quoted JobBridge figures but that initiative is one of the biggest scams going. In reality, it is an exploitative scheme to replace real jobs with bogus internships. Only 400 jobs have been created under it and the Minister has yet to explain how that will be a solution to chronic youth unemployment. It is estimated the €3.5 billion in cutbacks the Government is proposing will take another 30,000 jobs out of the economy. How will that address the position of young people who are currently unemployed?

Does the Minister agree that the labour market has become much too focused on the short term and there is too little investment in training and apprenticeships, through which it takes time to reap rewards? Even prior to the recession in the construction sector, apprenticeship schemes had almost disappeared and we became reliant on eastern Europe for tradesmen. There has to be direct Government action to stimulate such schemes across every industry because they have disappeared gradually over the past 20 years and we have reached a point where all our young people must leave the country to get work.

The Commission's ability to fund more initiatives in the youth unemployment area will depend on the European Social Fund budget. However, it is clearly Commissioner Andor's intention that there will be a shift in emphasis towards youth unemployment and youth guarantees. That is the implication of what he is seeking to do.

With regard to the domestic economy, I take Deputy Wallace's point. For a start, FÁS became solely focused on apprenticeships within the construction sector whereas the reality, if one examines the German and other successful continental European markets, is their apprenticeships models have a much broader industrial base. The EU is seeking to promulgate the building of a wider base of apprenticeships for member states. The role of SOLAS and the reorganised VECs will be in this area and the Deputy ought to table a question in this regard to the Minister for Education and Skills.

On the wider issue of the strategy for tackling unemployment raised by Deputy Clare Daly, we all know about financial constraints on the Government. However, within that, there are a number of strands in the strategy. One element is to make financial consolidation, which is essential, more job friendly. For example, selling old assets in order to invest in new assets is a way of becoming more dynamic. Examining the establishment of funds to exploit through NewERA and infrastructure can drive potential. Equally, the action plan for jobs considers how to get the whole of Government to move to a more pro-employment area. Pathways to Work, from the Minister for Social Protection, is about identifying those who are disadvantaged in the labour market and seeking to support them to give them an opportunity to take up employment. It involves many Ministers other than me but that is the basic approach.

Unemployment Levels

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

49. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Jobs; Enterprise and Innovation the steps he is taking to tackle long-term unemployment; and the way in which he will assess the success of these steps. [41601/12]

Dara Calleary

Question:

55. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Jobs; Enterprise and Innovation following figures in the most recent quarterly national household survey, his views on whether the jobs plan is successful in tackling long term unemployment; the new and additional steps he will take to tackle long term unemployment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41646/12]

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

62. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Jobs; Enterprise and Innovation his views on the increase in long term unemployment since taking office. [41602/12]

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 49, 55 and 62 together.

In the three years prior to taking office, over 300,000 jobs were lost. The collapse of the property bubble brought our banking system to a point of collapse and employment in the construction sector fell by 60%. The surge in unemployment is the direct consequence of these failed policies. A huge task of economic transformation is necessary to reverse these trends and get employment growing.

There are two major elements to the Government’s response to unemployment – Pathways to Work and the action plan for jobs. The aim of the action plan for jobs is to create a supportive environment for enterprise to create and sustain new jobs. We have set an ambitious but realistic target of creating 100,000 jobs by 2016.

The aim of Pathways to Work is ensure that as many opportunities as possible go to people who are currently on the live register, particularly those who are long-term unemployed. It has an objective of ensuring that at least 75,000 of those currently long-term unemployed will move into employment by 2015. It also aims to reduce the average time spent on the live register from 21 months to less than 12 months by the end of 2015.

The establishment of the new integrated national employment and entitlements service will transform the nature and level of engagement between our employment services and those who are unemployed. It will also provide better targeted services to both job seekers and employers. The labour market activation measures outlined in Pathways to Work include over 85,000 job placement and work experience places to be delivered this year by the Department of Social Protection, and over 450,000 training and education places to be delivered by the Department of Education and Skills. In addition, the financial supports available to employers who recruit a person who is long-term unemployed have been improved. These include Revenue’s job assist scheme and the employer’s PRSI exemption scheme operated by the Department of Social Protection. The Government has been actively promoting these schemes to employers in recent months, with the support of business representative bodies. We must continue to do all we can to facilitate the return to work of those who have lost their jobs. I am currently preparing the 2013 action plan for jobs on behalf of the Government and will be exploring further measures which can be taken to transform our economy and support job creation.

Long-term unemployment is at a critical level. Since the Government has taken office, we have moved from 50% of those who are unemployed being long-term unemployed to 60%. The activities the Government has been involved in have had a negative effect. Long-term youth unemployment in Ireland is at the highest level in Europe. The Government is tinkering around the edges. This Government and the last Government have taken €24 billion out of the economy and at the same time the private sector has taken €30 billion out of the economy. Sucking that level of money out of the economy leads to the economy collapsing. The Government has been involved in a pro-cyclical policy, making the trough deeper. By these policies, the Government has taken a kango hammer to the Irish economy and it is in disorder as a result.

There are obvious solutions, and not just those proposed by Sinn Féin. There are internationally recognised counter-cyclical policies of investment. The country has two major strategic objectives for the next 15 to 20 years.

One concerns energy and resources problems. We have housing stock that is energy inefficient. We could match many of the long-term unemployed from the construction sector to the external cladding of these houses. A fund is available from the private pension industry which would be happy to be involved in this.

The second strategic objective is to increase our communications ability. We are at the bottom of the European league with regard to broadband. The provision of broadband would also employ people who are long-term unemployed, but that would take a complete about-face in Government policy. It is up to the Minister to do that.

The Deputy is raising issues that go beyond my brief. He will know that the Ministers for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputies Noonan and Howlin, have developed a stimulus plan that involves initiatives across a range of infrastructure. It includes, for example, the establishment of Irish Water and its development as a professionally run utility that will become a major asset in the long term. At present, we are losing €500 million from water leaking into the ground from a system that is under-performing. That is a major investment which will also improve our infrastructure. The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Rabbitte, recently announced his plans to achieve a broadband spread across the country. Deputy Tóibín might take up this issue with Deputy Rabbitte.

The intention of the Government is to achieve financial consolidation, which is essential. We inherited public finances where spending was exceeding tax by about 50%. That is not sustainable. The Deputy is advocating expansionary policies with a heavy level of reliance on borrowing when we can only borrow from one source, having been locked out of the lending markets. We must restructure our economy and build new sectors that can sustain economic prosperity in the future.

A major transformation is under way but the Deputy is offering a simplistic analysis of the scale of the challenge and how we can address it.

I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Perry, for his earlier remarks.

The Minister referred to the IDA's record year in 2011. The authority has also had a very successful nine months in 2012. One of its big announcements was of 1,000 jobs, but 500 of those jobs had to be filled from outside the State. Meanwhile, 306,000 people are unemployed, of whom 60% are long-term unemployed. We cannot have a skills shortage on the one hand and a serious unemployment problem on the other.

Can the Minister not look at the Fianna Fáil proposal to put a scheme in place similar to the one the Minister established when he was in his Department in a previous Administration? It was a technology transfer scheme where people who are in need of a job can go through the scheme and fill high-tech jobs, such as the 500 jobs to which I referred.

The Minister said some of Deputy Tóibín's proposals went beyond his ministerial brief. Deputy Bruton is the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. He should be a thorn in the side of every Minister in the Cabinet, demanding to know how many jobs they are creating in their Departments and how many jobs their proposals for the forthcoming budget will create. That is what the Minister with responsibility for jobs should be doing.

I agree with Deputy Calleary that there are issues of skills shortages. As part of our action plan for jobs, the Minister for Education and Skills rolled out a programme to double output in the ICT sector over the next five years. That will involve initiatives such as Springboard which will provide short-term conversion courses, as well as increasing the longer term outputs from the colleges. There are acute skills shortages in key areas. There are shortages of programmers, for example, in the ICT area. There are also shortages of people with combinations of IT and language skills. There are gaps in those areas and we will be seeking to focus initiatives there. There is scope for improvement in those areas.

We need to focus on job creation activities. When I commented that the Deputy was referring to other areas I was drawing his attention to the very worthwhile things that are happening in other Departments. The development of Irish Water is a significant new infrastructure. We are creating a new public utility that will involve employment in the short term as we rebuild and connect it and make it more efficient in the long term.

Irish Water will employ existing county council workers. There will be no new jobs.

There will be new jobs. They will be outlined by other Ministers.

Investing, through NewERA, in the assets we need for the future and being willing to sell older assets from the past will, even in a financially strained economy, create funds to drive new employment and infrastructures. That is an area where real progress is being made by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. I participate collectively in the development of these proposals but they are the direct responsibility of other Ministers. They are worthwhile initiatives that are responding to the challenge we face.

The problem with the Minister's answers is that they do not equate with reality on the ground. He has twice mentioned Irish Water. The work that will be transferred to Irish Water is currently being done by local authority workers. The contracts he referred to are short-term contracts for the installation of water meters to privatise the service and will be fulfilled by companies such as Sierra or SiteServ. There is no proper State-led investment to repair leaks and develop a proper infrastructure.

The policies the Minister identified as dealing with the unemployment issue are being used to add to the problem. The Minister mentioned activation measures. Schemes such as JobBridge are being exploited by the private sector, not to employ people but to take them on in cheap internships. Unless the Government recognises its over-reliance on the private sector, which has been on strike for the past number of years, and addresses that problem, the chronic and long-term unemployment that citizens are faced with will continue.

The Deputy refuses to see the positive things that are happening in the economy. This year, we had 95 high potential start-up companies. They were set up by predominantly young entrepreneurial people, men and women, who are setting up businesses that have the potential to grow to significant scale. We are backing those enterprises with preference shares, supports and mentoring. They are the new companies of the future that will create a strong new economy.

It takes a blinkered view not to see Irish Water as a new proper State-led investment. This is a State company, set up as a subsidiary of Bord Gáis Éireann. It is dealing with an asset of strategic long-term importance. Water is a hugely important asset and we are squandering it. We have a system that is not fit for purpose and is losing water into the ground. We need to build the system. We have given leadership in that regard. The work will involve employment in the rebuilding of the infrastructure and will be a win-win for the Irish economy. It is a wholly appropriate thing to do at this time.

The depression of the 1930s in the United States was probably worse than the present depression. That country worked its way out of it by applying the philosophy of John Maynard Keynes. The top priority was the creation of employment which led to growth and eventually to a balanced budget.

I know the Minister is focused on job creation, but does he not think the Government is putting budget balancing ahead of job creation and that its priority is to balance the budget and get the figures right? I do not say that is the Minister's priority but it seems to be the overall priority of the Government.

The failure to fix the leaks in the water infrastructure was not due to the lack of Irish Water. There was a State decision not to deal with the problem. I hope Irish Water fixes the leaks before it installs meters. One would not need to be a rocket scientist or a businessman to see that if we are losing almost 45% of our water it would be a very good business decision to stop the leaks before the meters are installed.

Of course I am conscious that in an acute recession, such as the one we have now in Europe, we must have policies that are appropriate. Keynes was long an advocate of appropriate policies which included, during his time and which are still relevant, getting stability and confidence in a currency and having a system in which people will have confidence. That was not there during his time and, clearly, it is problem we must tackle at present. Equally, getting banks to lend was another obsession of Keynes. He wanted to get the system which had become broken repaired and back in action. That is absolutely true.

We need a growth strategy from Europe, and the Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, is continually pursuing this at European level to complement, as Keynes would say, the stability of the currency and better banking policies. That is the trio that must be implemented if we are to get out of this recession. However, Ireland does not have the ability to deploy all those tools. Many of them require collective action across the 27 member states and that is extremely difficult to secure, as everybody knows from observing what is happening. There are huge challenges but we must ensure that the pieces we are working on are effective, and that is what I am seeking to outline.

The stimulus budget the Government spoke about a number of months ago amounted to approximately €2.5 billion. If one considers the cut in capital expenditure in the budget last year, which will obviously continue for the next number of years, the balance is that the Government stimulus adds €800,000 over six years. The idea of a stimulus is to impact the State with such a large investment that it radically changes the gear of the economy and points it in a new direction. As has been said, much of the investment that will be put into Irish Water will go on the metering of houses. What change in productivity will that bring to Irish society and its economy? It will bring none.

The Minister mentioned that the current ideas of stimulus were somehow simplistic. That is incredible because Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman and John Maynard Keynes, who were Nobel Prize winners, said the best time to make an investment is when the economy is down. It does not make sense to have a stimulus investment when the economy is up. A stimulus investment only makes sense in this scenario.

With regard to there not being opportunities, the National Pensions Reserve Fund has billions of euro that are available to the State. The private pension industry is looking for an area in which to invest and has told me that the Government has not approached it with proper investment opportunities. We are in a critical situation and this is a burning issue throughout society. The Government must step up to the plate.

The Deputy must be aware, as everybody else is, that we are working within fiscal constraints that have been set by the troika. It happened before we took office but the country reached a point where, effectively, it could not borrow in the lending markets. There was only one place we could borrow and that was under the most strict conditions, of which the Deputy is aware. The conditions are about hitting key budgetary targets each year and the Government must do that. Our stimulus is about how, even within those targets, one can generate imaginative thinking that can create a stimulus package. Everything we are doing is of the type the Deputy has mentioned. It is about identifying new revenue streams, such as in the water sector, so we can have an investment programme to upgrade the key infrastructure. It is about taking funds in the National Pensions Reserve Fund and setting up, for example, the small and medium enterprises, SME, equity and lending fund which we are doing. That is the way in which we seek to drive a stimulus even though we are constrained by the international agreements we had to enter into to hit certain key borrowing targets. We are operating under severe constraints but, within that, we are producing the type of innovative strategies that can make a difference. The Deputy pretends those constraints are not there.

Industrial Development

Michael Colreavy

Question:

50. Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Jobs; Enterprise and Innovation the steps he is taking to promote enterprise and employment and address the employment differentials across the State. [41610/12]

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

51. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Jobs; Enterprise and Innovation the steps he is taking to address the loss of more than 10,000 jobs in the border region since taking office. [41599/12]

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

57. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Jobs; Enterprise and Innovation his views on the reduction in the labour force in the border region by more than 4,000 since taking office. [41600/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 50, 51 and 57 together.

The achievement of balanced regional growth is a core objective of the Government. Promoting entrepreneurship, attracting inward investment, helping indigenous companies grow and facilitating the key infrastructural needs of Irish enterprise are key policy instruments for building the competitive advantage of regions and promoting regional growth. The Action Plan for Jobs 2012 is a whole of Government national strategy aimed at creating and sustaining jobs across all regions of the State.

All of our agencies work to promote regional growth opportunities. The IDA has a specific target of delivering 50% of its projects outside Cork and Dublin. Enterprise Ireland and the county enterprise board structure have a strong regional base of companies and active policies to promote their growth. The objective of balanced regional development is supported by the EU Commission’s regional aid guidelines, which recognise that some regions can face significant structural disadvantage. The guidelines permit member states to grant higher investment aid to these areas. Under Ireland’s current regional aid map, the highest rates are afforded to the Border, midlands and west, BMW, region. Under the Action Plan for Jobs 2012, the establishment of a one-stop-shop to provide micro-enterprise support through the dissolution of the existing county enterprise board, CEB, offices and the creation of a new network of local enterprise offices, LEOs, will ensure an enhanced delivery of support to micro-enterprises across all regions.

With regard to the question on the Border region, the agencies’ network of offices includes Sligo, Letterkenny and Dundalk. Significant IDA projects in the Border region in the past 12 months include 175 jobs in Abbott in Sligo and 1,000 jobs in PayPal in Dundalk. There have been specific initiatives in the Border region, including the competitive start-up fund, enterprise development programmes, first-time exporters programme, new frontiers in Sligo and Letterkenny and supports provided by InterTradeIreland.

When we have this debate Government Ministers, unfortunately, tend to identify some successful things that have happened in particular areas. Undoubtedly some successful things are happening but, on balance, the Government is failing disastrously. Areas such as Offaly, Wexford, Carlow, Laois, Longford, Roscommon, Cavan, Westmeath and Monaghan have experienced the highest increases in unemployment in the State. Those areas are really badly serviced in respect of key communications infrastructure such as broadband and so forth, but many of them have had no IDA visits in the past two years. While it is easy to identify a handful of opportunities, the reality is that these areas are suffering significantly due to unemployment and emigration. A more proportionate response is required to redress this. How many IDA visits have these counties received since the Minister was appointed? I hope he will not dance around the question but give figures or, at least, appropriate estimates.

In 2011 there were 69 IDA client companies in the Border region employing a total of 8,223 people. In accordance with the Horizon 2020 strategy launched in 2010, the IDA's specific target for job creation in the period 2010 to 2014 is 105,000 new jobs in IDA-supported companies and a further 42,000 indirect jobs. With regard to facilitating IDA visits, the IDA is working with all its companies throughout the regions from its regional offices. Foreign direct investment has been very successful. There is also the record level of exports from Ireland at present at €173 billion. The challenge, as always, is to get the employer matched with the location.

The IDA is failing our heartlands with regard to job creation. Those areas that gave the most votes to Fine Gael in the last election are receiving the least number of IDA visits.

The Deputy should look at the BMW region and the accelerated level of incentives that were given in the Border region.

It is all in Galway. Nowhere else has received it.

The IDA brings in the potential investor. It is about location but there is a big emphasis on the north west and Border regions. I agree there is a difficulty getting people out of the main centres and the job of the Government is to encourage the IDA to support that. Obviously, however, business is driven by its customer and that determines its preferred location.

The IDA has had a successful year to date, with many announcements, and we should recognise client companies created more than 13,000 jobs in 2011, up 20% on the previous figure of 10,897 in 2010. There was an overall increase of 70% in the number of investments by IDA client companies in 2011. Despite the current global economic situation and a strong increase in international competition, there were 148 new investments won during the year across all industrial sectors.

I will focus specifically on Donegal as an example of the Government's failure to stimulate job creation in the Border region. From the recent CSO statistics, we know between 26% and 30% of the working population of Donegal is out of work. That is a shocking statistic. In some electoral districts up to 40% of all age groups are unemployed and emigration is rampant across the county. The Government not only focused foreign direct investment on one location in the county, Letterkenny, it then planned to withdraw the IDA offices from the town. It withdrew funding from the A5 road, a critical project to help Donegal, and there is no plan that might improve on what came before. Will the Minister of State outline to me his specific plans for job creation for Donegal?

The focus of Government agencies is to create jobs. Unemployment in Donegal is very high. The Border region has an unemployment rate of 16.3% compared with the national average of 14.7%. To get foreign direct investment into Donegal, or even indigenous start-up companies, the local enterprise officers will be rolled out, which will start with small companies, which will be the driver of the engine of growth in the economy. They will also work with the third level institutes to facilitate the private sector. Innovation vouchers are available to help those with an idea to commercialise it. While getting a big company to locate there is very welcome, start-up companies are also very important and there are a number of such companies that believe opportunity still exists.

I agree this is a challenge but it is difficult, despite the success of the IDA, to give a clear, specific plan. There will be a focus on the north-west offices with the IDA, which brings investors into Donegal all the time. It is to be hoped there will be direct engagement that will benefit Donegal. That is my commitment as Minister of State, to ensure we get employment into the north west.

Donegal should also take up the coastal development opportunities outlined by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine on the development of fisheries. All those offer potential employment. This is a challenging job but the focus of Government is to attract foreign direct investment into Ireland. There have been a number of overseas trips by Ministers and delegations and they are making a difference.

When is it proposed to supply sat-navs to the IDA so it can find County Kerry?

Job Creation

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

52. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Jobs; Enterprise and Innovation the measures he has taken to support manufacturing industry here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41655/12]

Bernard Durkan

Question:

56. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs; Enterprise and Innovation the extent to which he has studied the potential for job creation throughout the manufacturing and services sectors in each of the past two years to date; the number of jobs created in both areas excluding those involving foreign direct investment in the same period; if any particular issues have been brought to his attention which might have a direct impact of job retention or creation; the action or actions arising or pending on foot of any such information; if it is expected or intended to put in place specific measures to address any negative influence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41639/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 52 and 56 together.

Manufacturing is a key priority of enterprise policy. It comprises 64% of Enterprise Ireland-supported jobs and more than 50% of IDA-supported jobs in 2011, and 194,490 persons were employed in agency assisted manufacturing companies in 2011.

The Action Plan for Jobs includes measures aimed at exploiting sectoral opportunities, including those in the manufacturing and services sectors. I have established a manufacturing development forum to set out a strategic vision for 2020 aimed at increasing employment in the sector. Its membership comprises key industry players and I have instructed the forum to identify impediments to job creation in manufacturing areas and opportunities for immediate job creation. High value production is the future of indigenous manufacturing, and growth sectors are pharmaceutical, biotechnology, agriculture and food, medical technology and ICT. A number of steps have been taken to enable indigenous manufacturing firms to specialise, develop skills and value and scale up, including the launch of the new potential exporters division, Enterprise Ireland’s lean business offer, the new development capital scheme and improvements to the research and development tax credit scheme.

Forfás data show that manufacturing employment grew by 1.1% in 2011, an increase of 2,198 jobs. This reverses a trend of four continuous years of job losses, when almost 45,000 jobs were lost in manufacturing. The bulk of the growth was in foreign-owned industry but indigenous manufacturing also increased slightly, with 92,507 employed by Irish-owned companies. Employment growth in Irish manufacturing companies has been especially strong in the medical device, food and ICT sectors.