I thank the Deputy for his question. Ireland’s overall competitiveness performance remains positive. Our improved fiscal position and increased cost competitiveness have contributed to Ireland’s improved international competitiveness. This improvement is reflected in a range of metrics, notably economic growth, increased employment, falling unemployment and a strong trade performance. In particular, our overall strong competitive position is reflected in the strong performance of the labour market across sectors and regions. The results from the Labour Force Survey in respect of quarter 1 2018 shows employment totalled 2,220,500, up 2.9% or 62,100, from the same quarter in 2017 with employment increasing in 11 of 14 economic sectors over the year. Notwithstanding this strong position, addressing Ireland’s cost competitiveness remains a key economic priority for Government. We continue to monitor Ireland's cost base and to analyse the factors that are crucial to improving our cost competitiveness.
The Costs of Doing Business in Ireland 2018 report, published by the National Competitiveness Council on 1 June, found that the cost base for enterprise is internationally competitive across a range of metrics, including the cost of starting a business, communications costs and average income taxes. However, the council also highlighted that Ireland remains a relatively high cost location and cost pressures are evident in residential property, credit, labour and business service costs.
A range of initiatives set out in the Action Plan for Jobs 2018 are in train across Departments to enhance our cost competitiveness and productivity, improve the ease of doing business, reduce the administrative burden and drive greater efficiencies across the enterprise base. Through the action plan for education and pathways to work the Government is working to ensure the pipeline of talent can meet the demand for labour to reduce labour cost pressure. The ongoing work of the Personal Injuries Commission, the implementation of the report on the cost of motor insurance and the complementary work of the cost of insurance working group should help to reduce insurance costs for businesses.
Rebuilding Ireland - action plan for housing and homelessness - presents a wide-ranging set of commitments to address housing supply and while many of these will take time, the Government is implementing and driving change.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House.
Enterprise 2025 Renewed, which I launched in March, placed an increased emphasis on enhancing our competitiveness position by developing our Irish-owned enterprises. We are placing a spotlight on innovation and on skills. Enterprise Ireland also places a strong emphasis on competitiveness. It supports exporting enterprises with initiatives in Lean, research, development and innovation and management development. The agency helps enterprises to take a strategic approach to understanding and responding to potential implications arising from Brexit and assists them to enter into new markets and diversify their export base. The local enterprise offices offer a suite of supports to enhance the competitiveness of small and micro enterprises. Initiatives include mentoring, innovation vouchers, Lean Start and access to a Brexit diagnostic and guidance.
In terms of ensuring our cost competitiveness, there is a role for the public and private sectors alike to proactively manage the controllable portion of their respective cost bases, drive productivity and continue to take action to minimise costs.