Priority Questions

Scientific Research

Dara Calleary

Question:

1. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his policy on capturing the long-term benefits of scientific research, following an open letter by over 900 scientists (details supplied); his strategy for the funding of applied research and basic research; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12182/15]

Over 900 of the country's leading scientists published a very damning letter in The Irish Times last week about current Government research policy. They expressed concerns about the commercial focus and highlighted the need to change the balance between basic and applied research. I notice that there has been no response to the letter from the Government. I also notice that submissions are being invited on a new policy in the area.

Government policy is focused on building excellence in scientific research and maximising its impact on job creation and economic and social progress. Neither I nor the Government make any apology for putting extra emphasis on research that could help to create more jobs. The Government introduced a number of policy initiatives targeted at accelerating the economic and societal return on our investment in this area. Among them was implementation of the proposals of the research prioritisation group. Following rigorous analysis and intensive engagement with all key stakeholders, this broad-based group which comprised members from industry and academia identified 14 priority areas at which the majority of competitive funding should be targeted. The areas were identified on the basis of existing strengths of the public research system, existing strengths of the enterprise base, opportunities in the global market and those most likely to deliver an economic and societal impact and employment.

Excellence in scientific research has been and will continue to be a cornerstone of the development of the science base in Ireland. This has been complemented in recent years by a sharper focus on the relevance and impact of research. Whereas research prioritisation saw greater emphasis on the economic and societal impact of research, it did not represent a move away from funding basic research. Policy has been and will continue to be to support research across the full continuum from basic to applied, through to the commercialisation of research. All research supported by Science Foundation Ireland, SFI, is in line with our research prioritisation agenda and must have an impact. This approach has been successful in developing 12 research centres of scale and ambition. This approach will underpin the successor to the strategy for science, technology and innovation which is being formulated by an interdepartmental committee which includes representatives of key Departments and the Higher Education Authority, as well as the chief scientific adviser to the Government. The views of all stakeholders, including the open letter from Irish Scientists for Basic Research, are welcome in this regard.

Evidence from both the European Union and internationally indicates that this strategy is paying off. Globally, Ireland was ranked 11th out of 142 countries in the Global Innovation Index 2014, third in the new EU indicator of innovation output, ninth in the European Commission's 2014 Innovation Union Scoreboard and among the top 20 countries in global rankings for the quality of our scientific research. We rank in the top four in the areas of immunology, animal and dairy, nanotechnology and computer science.

When over 900 of the leading researchers in the world combine and publish a letter such as this, it should surely ring alarm bells. A number of issues arise. We have supported the Minister in the past in his attempts to focus research expenditure on job-related issues but not at the cost of long-term research. For example, in the 14 areas mentioned issues to do with neuroscience are excluded. One of the successes of our foreign direct investment in recent years has been the ability of long-standing companies to use research budgets to reinvent what they had come to do. There are companies working in Ireland with partnerships and investment funds, with research and development dating back ten or 15 years, and this has resulted in hundreds of jobs being retained. The very narrow and short-term focus that is driving science funding will prohibit this from happening in the future. We do not know today what will be the main product in five years time. That is my concern. As long as the Government pursues a short-term project, we will miss out on long-term economic opportunities. More importantly, we will miss out on long-term societal opportunities. For example, in the case of illnesses that have not been researched, how can we encourage such research if we have this focus?

I totally reject the suggestion that the approach adopted is either narrow or short-term. This work was initiated by my predecessor who appointed the group to look at the issue of research prioritisation. Nobody could argue with the make-up of the group. The approach being taken is that a proposal is tested first for scientific excellence by peer groups at the highest standard of international scrutiny to see that the science is excellent. The second element, a "gateway" as described by the research prioritisation group, is an analysis of whether the issue is relevant in an area in which Ireland can hope to develop opportunities. These are not restrictive elements. There is a range of supports in the areas of materials, data, infant care, marine research and solid state pharmaceuticals. There are scientifically peer-reviewed centres of an excellent standard which will have an impact and there will be 1,000 graduates in these areas. They will be winning EU funding and it is estimated that they will attract €100 million in private funding and €280 million in non-Exchequer funding. There will be 61 spin-outs formed, with 352 commercialisation awards and 284 licence agreements. These are all having a real impact in areas in which we can hope to develop employment opportunities. That is what we must do, but choices must be made in any area. The approach set out by the research prioritisation group is the right one.

If it is so great, how come 900 people came together to write the letter? According to Professor Kevin Mitchell of the Smurfit Institute of Genetics in Trinity College Dublin, if we want to have a knowledge economy, we have to invest in knowledge. The letter indicates that the people concerned are becoming "more and more dismayed" by the change in policy, which shifted all of the funding from science to hoped-for short-term applications. This expresses the frustration of those who will be inventing what we will need economically and, more importantly, societally in the coming years. What were the procedures used in publicising the consultation process for the new policy? Many have said it was a very narrow consultation process and that the information on it and the deadlines were kept to a closed circle. Knowledge of the process and an ability to participate in changing it was, therefore, very limited. I gather the deadline for the receipt of submissions is next week.

I do not accept this at all. It would be very strange if people looking for funding were not complaining that they would like to have more funding. The Deputy knows that there were sharp cutbacks in research funding during his party's period in government.

The entire infrastructure was put in place during our time in government.

We have stabilised that. Every project that comes forward for consideration is considered first on its scientific excellence. That is done independently with international peer review. The excellence of the science is the first consideration. It also has to show some relevance to areas where we can hope to make an impact on our economy or our society. Such a focus is needed in a time of 10% unemployment. We need employment. We need to bring our research out from the ivory tower to be commercialised. It is no good to anyone to have great ideas that never get applied. That continuum of excellent science and relevance leading to commercialisation is the right approach. Other countries admire us because we are getting a better impact from our budgets than most other countries. That has been demonstrated. We are still top of many ranges in terms of scientific research. We are improving our ranking in terms of scientific research, measured by publications and all of the scientific excellence instruments that are used.

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

2. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of the estimated 1.3 million jobs that will be lost to worker displacement arising from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that will be Irish small and medium-sized enterprise jobs. [12180/15]

The European Commission and the Government have stated over and over again that the transatlantic trade and investment partnership, TTIP, will be advantageous to small and medium sized enterprises, SMEs. Very little evidence of the exact benefits of TTIP have been provided to date. The Minister has said that businesses will enjoy increased market share, but we have heard very little about the practical elements that will be available to SMEs to allow them to do that. We are very worried about the 1.3 million jobs in Europe which will be displaced when TTIP is enforced. Can the Minister tell us how the Government will deal with that?

It has been estimated that TTIP will have a positive impact on European output, incomes and employment. It is estimated that it will increase the size of the European economy by 0.5% of GDP and increase employment by 400,000. This would mean that a European family of four would see its annual disposable income increase by an average of €545. The suggestion that 1.3 million jobs will be lost is untrue. The EU entered these negotiations to boost jobs and growth. If this were not the case, we would not proceed. A study commissioned by my Department on the same basis as the European estimates suggested that the benefit to Ireland will be proportionally greater than the benefit to the EU. It suggested that Irish exports will grow by almost 4%, investment will increase by 1% and real wages will increase by 1.5%. It estimated that between 5,000 and 10,000 additional export-related jobs will be created. It suggested that Irish SMEs will be particular beneficiaries of TTIP. The impact of this trade agreement, when concluded, will be felt over a long period. It is expected that resources will move to stronger and higher value sectors over time. This is occurring in the economy all the time. The Commission has estimated that as a result of the agreement, approximately seven in every 1,000 workers will move out of some sectors and into other sectors. As the Deputy knows, job creation and job loss is a dynamic process. For example, in the last four years gross job creation in companies supported by the enterprise agencies was 147,000. This was offset by job losses of 102,000, generating net gains of 45,000. This represents a loss of approximately 4% each year. In that context, labour movement of 0.7% over a ten-year period as a result of TTIP would be a modest adjustment.

A study into the first 12 years of the North American Free Trade Agreement found that more than 1 million jobs were lost in the US during that period, with millions of other people suffering a significant decline in wages and conditions. As assessment by the Centre for Economic Policy Research, which was financed by the European Commission, found that TTIP is likely to result in prolonged and substantial dislocation of EU workers. It suggested that 1.3 million EU workers and 715,000 US workers will be displaced. The Minister suggested that "job loss is a dynamic process". It is not a dynamic experience for an individual. We have seen examples of jobs in this State being lost en masse. It happened in the construction industry. When numbers are that large, it is practically impossible to fully reorient and retrain those individuals to work in new and developing areas of employment. That has not been the practical experience in this State so far. Our discussions with the trade directorate-general of the European Commission have shown us that it is not interested in attending to this problem. It has said that it is up to the national Parliaments and the Council to address this issue. I suppose I am looking for information on the practical steps that will be taken by the Government in advance of this displacement, which the Minister admits is likely to happen, to ensure it will not happen or, if it does happen, it will be dealt with.

I think the Deputy is trying to mislead the House here. The Korea agreement that was signed recently has resulted in Europe's export sales into Korea growing at 2.5 times the rate of growth of any other market. The net gain that is occurring as a result of that agreement - it is tangible and can be tested - is the addition by European companies of jobs, employment and opportunities. TTIP has the same potential. It will reduce tariff barriers and non-tariff barriers. It will allow food products in. It will ensure pharmaceutical products have fewer obstacles. It will open opportunities for growth in certain sectors. That is really important. The net benefit when that is analysed will be more jobs for Irish people in the economy. As the Deputy said, there will be a movement towards the stronger sectors. If our dairy sector grows, there will be a decline in the use of land for other agricultural purposes. People will switch from one product to another. That is a dynamic process which happens in the economy all the time. It is certainly within our capacity to adapt to a 0.7% movement over a ten-year period. It will not be like the impact on the construction sector, which was mentioned by the Deputy. There was a 66% collapse in our construction sector over four years because of some very bad policies that had been pursued. I think the Deputy is seeking to mislead by making false comparisons here. This will have a net benefit, particularly for Ireland. We should seek to embrace it, but not naively.

The displacement of 1.3 million jobs in Europe will be an economic shock to 1.3 million families. The Minister has given information on a global scale about the objectives of TTIP with regard to increased trade and business levels, etc. All we are seeking is the detail. There is pressure at the moment for TTIP to be delivered very quickly. We are asking the Government to set out its stall in advance of TTIP being concluded to explain how SMEs will deal with the new transatlantic trade deal. How will we deal with the workers who will be displaced? There are 20 million SMEs across the EU. They account for 99.8% of all enterprises. If we look at the experience of the US with the North American Free Trade Agreement, we will see that the percentage of exports in which SMEs were involved actually declined over the period of experience of the agreement. It is not the case that SMEs generally experience upward motion when these large trade agreements are reached. The truth is that multinationals experience upward movement. Our fear is that TTIP is orientated towards the needs and benefits of multinationals and against the needs and benefits of SMEs and workers.

That is simply untrue. The research being undertaken both at European level and individually in Ireland denies that. The strongest performance of Irish companies is in the US. Enterprise Ireland supports thousands of Irish companies in entering the US market. It has offices across the US. It will take various steps to support any SME that is seeking to expand into that market. It can offer first-time exporter's support and marketing support, for example. If enterprises want to put feet on the ground, they can get support for graduate placement in certain cases and they can access all of Enterprise Ireland's staff in all areas of the US. When those barriers come down, we will be particularly well placed to support Irish SMEs that are seeking to access a very familiar market. We are really well placed to take advantage of this. Enterprise Ireland will be gearing up and working with companies that can penetrate that market. Members will be aware that umpteen companies, including Combilift, McHale Engineering and Keenan of Carlow, are really up and ready. We hope to have a whole new swathe of companies coming in behind them because this is a good market with good contacts for Irish people, not only through Enterprise Ireland but through many other contacts over the years.

Job Creation

Thomas Pringle

Question:

3. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his response to the Nevin Economic Research Institute's recent report that 94% of the 29,000 new jobs created in 2014 were in the eastern part of the country, while full-time equivalent jobs declined in the Border counties; his plans to counteract the decline of jobs growth in counties such as Donegal before it becomes an established pattern in economic development across the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12187/15]

This question arises from the recent report by the Nevin Economic Research Institute on the regional imbalance in job creation, which highlighted, in particular, that more than 90% of new jobs in 2014 were created in the Dublin and mid-east regions. What is the Minister's policy to address that imbalance?

Based on the figures published by the CSO, and given any fair and reasonable review of the data, the Nevin institute’s presentation of regional employment data in its recent spring report was, at best, highly misleading. In the three years since the Action Plan for Jobs was launched every region has experienced job growth. Over that period more than 50% of the 90,000 jobs created were outside Dublin and the mid-east areas. Indeed the fastest rate of job growth in that period has been in the south east and the midlands.

With regard to the Border region, the number of people at work has increased by 14,300. The equivalent figures are 8,000 in the midlands and 22,700 in the south east.

The same is true of the agency assisted enterprises where 51% of gross employment creation during the period 2011-2014 was outside Dublin and the mid-east. Among agency supported companies there were some strong regional performances. Enterprise Ireland, EI, companies grew net employment in the south west by 27% and in the midlands by 16%, while IDA companies grew net employment by 28% in the west and 21% in the Border region.

However, the Government recognises that some regions are growing faster than others. That is why we are putting in place regional action plans for jobs to accelerate employment in every region. The purpose of these plans is to facilitate each region to achieve its economic potential, building on its existing strengths and opportunities.

The regional action plans will be developed through consultation with key stakeholders in each region. A stakeholder forum to help inform actions for inclusion in the action plan for the Border region will take place later today in Sligo. A further stakeholder forum will take place in Carrickmacross on 13 April.

It is my intention to publish six regional action plans for jobs, including one for the Border region, by July, with a further two in development at that stage.

The Minister's officials in response to the Nevin institute report said 70% of net job creation was in the Dublin and mid-east regions. Statistics have been tweaked to make them look good but job creation in these two regions far exceeds every other region. The figure for the Border region is skewed by the fact that County Louth is included in it. The situation is much worse than it appears in counties Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim and this has to be addressed. I await to see whether the Action Plan for Jobs will address this imbalance. It is vitally important for the north west and for the overall development of the country that this be dealt with. The east region cannot continue to sustain the migration rate into it, which is happening because there are no jobs in the rest of the country. The Department accepts that 70% of net job creation was in the Dublin and mid-east regions rather than 90%. The Minister has to address that.

That is not true. The CSO provides the figures. The highest rate of growth in job creation was in the south east at 12.8%. That was followed by the midlands at 8.5%. Dublin was third and the rate was 6.5% in the Border region and so on. Some regions are not growing as fast as we would like and we need to build on that. Growth is occurring across all regions but we have to start with true figures. The figures I quoted related to the number of jobs created by our agencies together. Some areas find it difficult to win IDA employment and one of the actions we are delivering in the regional action plans is investment in advance facilities. For example, we are building in Letterkenny and we are now committing to build in Sligo. We have identified that for some regions additional magnets are needed to draw overseas investment but it is also important to remember that well in excess of 90% of employment is in Irish owned companies. The strong performance in employment growth in many of our counties relates to EI companies. The highest growth rate is in the south west at 27%. There has been a strong performance among Irish owned companies in a number of counties, including Sligo.

We have to have a balance and we have to look at the figures and the opportunities honestly while working together to drive those opportunities.

The Minister is saying his Department was wrong in its response to the Nevin institute report by saying there was a 70% net increase in job creation in the Dublin and mid-east regions. We have three sets of figures for regional job creation.

I can deal with that but we do not have the time.

I will let the Minister back in.

When will we see the true figures and what they truly reflect? The emigration rate is still high in the north west and job creation is not happening. That regional imbalance has to be addressed. Unfortunately, there is nothing in these figures or in what the Minister said that will address that.

If the Deputy chooses to be blind, he can be blind. He knows that IDA employment in his own county has increased by 40% over the past four years.

From a low base.

That is an extraordinary performance by any standard but we want more. We are investing in advance facilities in Letterkenny and Sligo. One can distort statistics, which is the oldest trick in the book.

The Government parties are good at it themselves.

Job creation is growing in some regions and falling in others. The figures I outlined are for a four year period. The Nevin institute chose one year and chose to ignore the fact that growth was falling in some regions. One could have presented the same figures by saying 75% of job growth in 2014 was in the south east, midlands and mid east. That would have given a different picture. We need to look at each region. The growth rate fell in a number of regions last year and that had an impact on the average rate. We have to look at each region and seek to build its strengths. That is what we are doing and I hope the Deputy will be in Sligo later. He can engage and come up with ideas that he believes will drive change in his region. We want to tap into the people who can make things happen in the region and to provide money for which companies can bid to ensure the best ideas come to fruition. That is the best way to drive opportunities. It is not about quibbling about numbers. There is good performance and not so good performance but we need to increase the growth rate in all regions.

Industrial Disputes

Dara Calleary

Question:

4. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the action being taken to address the industrial unrest at Ireland’s largest indigenous retailer; the Government policy on job security for those on zero-hour contracts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12183/15]

A week from today, the country's largest indigenous retailer, Dunnes Stores, will be the subject of a strike owing to the frustration of its workers. I had the opportunity last Tuesday to meet some of them to discuss a range of issues relating to the current collective agreement. The company will not engage with the Labour Court. What work is the Government doing? Is anything going on behind the scenes? What are the Minister of State's views on this?

I understand that the current dispute concerns a range of issues, including the introduction of banded hours contracts, individual and collective representational rights and a review of the use of temporary contracts. The union is seeking to engage with the company on these issues and the matter was referred by the union to the Labour Court under section 20(1) of the Industrial Relations Act 1969 in October last year. It was disappointing that Dunnes Stores was not represented at the court hearing. The court found it regrettable that the company declined to participate in the investigation of the dispute or to put forward its position on the union's claims.

In its recommendation of 14 November 2014, the court reaffirmed earlier recommendations it had made by noting that the company and the union were party to a collective agreement signed in 1996, which provides a procedural framework within which industrial relations disputes and differences arising between the parties can be resolved by negotiation and dialogue. The court pointed out that the dictates of good industrial relations practice require parties to honour their collective agreements in both spirit and intent. I assure the Deputy that I agree that Dunnes Stores should have attended the court.

I regret that the company decided against attending the Labour Court hearing, contrary to good industrial relations practice in that regard. The experience and expertise of the court offer the most appropriate and effective avenue for resolving such issues and I urge both parties to avail of the services of the State’s industrial relations machinery which remain available to assist the parties, if requested. Engagement with the State's industrial relations machinery offers the best way whereby the parties involved in this dispute can hope to resolve their differences.

Neither the Labour Court nor the Minister can compel a company to comply with such recommendations, and ultimately, responsibility for the settlement of a trade dispute rests with the parties to the dispute.

I thank the Minister of State. I acknowledge we do not have powers of compellability but we have moral powers. The company has benefited from the security of a Labour Court agreement in carrying out its business since 1996 and it has engaged on six occasions with the court on the agreement over the past 19 years. It is particularly disgraceful, therefore, that it has chosen to ignore it now.

The meeting the other day was an eye-opener into how zero-hour contracts work. Store managers have the ability to say to any employee that they can do this amount of hours this week and half the number next week. That is what is going on at the moment in terms of planning for next week. Store managers say to employees that if they go on strike they can only get a certain band of hours. I know the Minister of State is doing a lot of work to ensure decent conditions of work. I previously compared what is going on to what happened to the navvies in England, but that is happening in one of our largest, indigenous retail companies. Some parties in this House always condemn our multinational companies but when one of our own companies treats our own people like that, we have a moral obligation in this House to call them out for what they are. The old Labour Relations Commission was ideal for this kind of situation. Is there any mechanism currently available to Government that could be used to bring some sort of decency to the negotiations?

I am pleased the Deputy raised the issue of zero-hour contracts. As he acknowledged, I have been doing work in that area because I am concerned that the recovery we are experiencing should not be characterised by a race to the bottom. We have engaged the University of Limerick to carry out a major study into the prevalence and extent of zero-hour contracts and low-hour contracts in this country. It is timely that we do so. I expect to have that report within a matter of months. I have made it very clear in this House that if it is the case that legislation or regulation is required to address some of the more egregious aspects of those practices then the Government is committed to doing so. We are committed to ensuring that work pays and that we deliver on our dignity of work and dignity at work agenda. It would be remiss of me not to signal my intention to bring forward collective bargaining legislation to the floor of this House very shortly. We wish to enact the legislation by this summer. The collective bargaining legislation can assist in avoiding some of the issues we are experiencing now. If we had that type of legislation in place it certainly could inform the conduct of negotiations and provide a way in which we could address some of the issues that have emerged in the context of this particular dispute.

Is it possible to turn up the microphone volume a bit? Perhaps it is my hearing that is the problem but the volume seems to be low.

I wish Dunnes Stores would turn up the volume and listen to the workers. A total of 70% of Dunnes Stores employees are women and 76% of workers are on flexible contracts. Many supermarkets have reached agreement with trade unions on the matter, but Dunnes Stores seem to be unwilling to do so. We have less than a week to go. From listening to the workers the other day it appears there is a lot of pressure on people not to go out on strike. Work hours are being used as part of that pressure. People are being told that if they go on strike they will not be given work hours in the following week. In this day and age it is wrong that such a practice would exist. It is as if the situation that existed in the mills in England in the 19th century is still in place. Surely some mechanism is available to bring the parties around a table along the old-style LRC system that we could initiate over the weekend to try to stop a strike from happening and to try to bring common sense and alleviate the pressure that is now on workers in every Dunnes Stores outlet across the country today.

Nobody likes taking industrial action of any description, in particular workers who depend on their jobs for their income. It is never in the interests of a business to experience strike action either. I reiterate the call I made in this House just two days ago for all sides to engage and to use the professional expertise of the very well respected professional labour relations institutions in this country to assist them in resolving the dispute at issue in this case. It is very important they would do so if the will exists. I call again on the company to engage in a meaningful fashion with the trade union to address the issues that have been raised on a consistent basis. Deputy Calleary is correct that the trade union has brought the issues at hand to the Labour Court on several occasions recently and I understand how some would conclude that the company is treating the Labour Court in a very cavalier fashion.

Regional Development Initiatives

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

5. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if his Department has provided any additional investment for the development of regional enterprise strategies framework; the job creation and investment targets for each of the eight strategic planning areas; the way the strategies for the west and south west will address the fall in employment in both regions, and the stagnation of employment in the border region. [12181/15]

Ireland's economic recovery, slow as it is, is almost exclusively located in Dublin and its hinterland while stagnation and decline persist in other parts of the country. The conclusions of the Nevin Economic Research Institute have been discussed. Its last quarterly bulletin basically stated that 94% of the 29,000 new jobs created in the economy last year were in the greater Dublin area. We could argue all day long that my statistics are better than another's statistics but the fact is that people from outside of the Dublin area looking in on this debate will know from their own experience that the recovery is not in their reach. It is important that the Government orientates to make that happen.

First, I welcome the Deputy's question. It is important to state, as I outlined to Deputy Pringle, that the 90,000 extra jobs have been spread throughout the country. Dublin has higher growth. The mid-east, which is Deputy Tóibín's area, is not one of the higher growth areas but the other two areas of high growth are the midlands and the south east. The Deputy correctly pointed out that the west and the south west are areas that need attention. As Deputy Tóibín is aware, we have adopted a policy of introducing regional enterprise strategies. We have already taken action. We are identifying advance facilities that we will put in place in key areas. Where regions are not doing as well as they could we will put in advance facilities, align them to other strengths of the region such as institutes of technology or clusters of a sector in order to attract inward investment.

We are also making available €100 million from Enterprise Ireland which will be allocated by means of competitive calls. It will be designed to encourage regions to come forward with plans for what they could do with the particular competitive strengths they have. There is very much an emphasis on start-ups. We want to see a higher rate of start-up companies, less failure among the start-up community and more scaling. We also want to see individual sub-sectors that have the capacity to grow identified by the stakeholders within the region and actions put in place to drive those opportunities. Competitive funds will be available to bring those opportunities to fruition.

In terms of setting targets, the overall context within which I operate is that we have set a target of full employment by 2018. That is in or around 160,000 additional people at work. We will seek to get regional balance in the spread of that. We will look at all of the regions. As I indicated to Deputy Thomas Pringle, we must recognise strengths as well as weaknesses. The Opposition will always focus on weaknesses. That may be its job. There have been some very good regional performances by IDA and Enterprise Ireland companies, in particular in the south west, one of the regions Deputy Tóibín identified. The IDA has also performed very strongly in the west, another region the Deputy identified. We have a baseline on which to build. The idea underlying the bottom-up regional strategies is for everyone to get in behind certain strategic objectives for those regions and make them happen.

The Government's objective for full employment is 6.5% unemployment. Given that Iceland has an unemployment rate of 4% and it is 4% also in Germany, the question arises as to whether they are super full-employment countries. A rate of 6.5% does not seem like-----

No. It is between 5% and 6%. Roughly speaking, it is 5.5%.

The previous response I had on the matter indicated that full employment was 6.5%.

No. That is not the case.

I do not wish to get diverted into a discussion in that regard. We have lopsided development in this country at the moment. That has not happened by accident. In 2011 a total of 27% foreign direct investment went into the regions. Regional FDI investment was worse in 2012 and we have only seen slightly improved figures in recent years. In the third year of the Government's term of office a regional enterprise strategy emerged, which we welcome, but the problem is that we were told it would be rolled out by June 2014. The reality is that it was intended to be only trialled in one region by the specified time. We are already a year late in that regard. My major concern is that the necessary funds are not available to properly implement the strategy.

What we committed to do last year was to develop a framework within which the strategy could happen and we are rolling it out this year. We have committed funds of €150 million from the IDA as part of its five-year strategy, which is specifically for property solutions. Most attention has been devoted to the 12 advance facilities we have planned for the next three years.

That only uses up 30% of those solutions. There will be many other IDA Ireland property-based investments to help regions attract inward investment. Up to €100 million has been set aside by Enterprise Ireland for these competitive calls. We are now moving into the implementation phase and doing it in a way with which the Deputies opposite will agree. We must sit down with the stakeholders in each region, get the best ideas and work with the agencies at local level to bring those ideas to fruition. We have ambitious targets in this regard.

There is always the trick of finding a figure that looks the worst possible. I can understand why the Deputy might be tempted to do that. If one looks at it in a balanced way, however, one will see all the regions are growing. Some strong Enterprise Ireland performances are occurring in many regions which were weaker. Some are not doing as well and those are the ones at which we need to look. Why in some areas are our own Irish companies faced with the same opportunities not growing so strongly? I expect Enterprise Ireland to do an audit on those companies and examine the range of policies that could help them grow. That is the benefit of a regional bottom-up approach.

There is no doubt that there are examples that buck the trend in each of the regions trending generally in a negative fashion. We have to measure the trends in those areas to be able to create the proper policies and develop the resources to solve the problems. It is not a case of looking for the worst figure. Anyone with two ears on them who steps outside of the M50 into the rest of the State will tell the Minister that it is not happening outside of the Dublin region. While the Minister referred to IDA Ireland development funds and the competitive calls fund, we are seeking to develop a regional enterprise strategy framework. This will put pressure on those organisations to come up with the goods without them getting the necessary funding to do so. As I said a week ago to the Minister, there are local enterprise offices, LEOs, which are understaffed and finding the transition from county enterprise board to LEO difficult without the necessary resources. If the Minister means business with regional enterprise and development, he needs to put his money where his mouth is.

Will the Deputy look at the numbers? For example, there are 17,000 extra people at work in Enterprise Ireland companies. Of these, 5,600 are based in the south west, 3,000 in the mid-east area, 3,000 in Dublin, 1,700 in the Border areas and 1,400 in the midlands region. That is a good spread.

The minority of jobs are outside Dublin.

I accept with IDA Ireland jobs that more are peaking around the cities. All the cities are doing well and it is harder in some of the regions. That is why we are investing €150 million in property solutions in those other regions to build advanced facilities and strengthen them. The LEOs will have a very important role to play but there will be a specific competitive call targeted at them as to how they can be more innovative in the region and draw down additional resources for new ideas. They are very much included in these competitive calls.

The €100 million fund will be used to develop the assets we have in the regions, whether it is enterprise centres, LEOs, or, hopefully, uniform clusters to grow opportunities in food production or medical devices, for example. There will be money available but it will be competitive. We are not saying there is a little for everyone. We want to see competitive calls and really good projects being brought forward with the best ones getting funding. At the enterprise committee, the Deputy has asked me to show him the results with the KPIs, key performance indicators and so forth. That is the approach we are taking. This is what Deputies have said to me in the committee and I am implementing the approach that they are asking of me.