Globalisation dominates our economic and social policymaking at national and EU level. It has elicited different responses across the world, stimulating competition and bringing opportunities and challenges to the doorsteps of many nations. It has also brought fears that intense competition will widen the gap between rich and poor countries.
People throughout the world see employment as the litmus test for the success of globalisation. According to the International Labour Office, work is the source of dignity and is fundamental to the stability, peace and credibility of governments and the economic system. To optimise the benefits of globalisation, Ireland has focused on creating the environment in which employment is fostered and grows. Economic growth, however, does not necessarily lift all boats and we must ensure we do not leave people behind in our push for growth.
Mechanisms are required, therefore, to provide confidence about decent standards and fairness without compromising flexibility or adding unreasonably to the burdens of regulation of the labour market. That delicate balance requires the active engagement of all the parties to our employment market. In striving to achieve outcomes which are fair to society at large, a key aspect of our approach has been to foster, develop and ensure to the greatest extent possible policy co-ordination and coherence across a wide policy remit in cross-cutting areas of economic, employment and social policy and to ground these developments within social dialogue. Social partnership is fundamental to the formulation and delivery of these core strands of policy.
The outcome of the recent partnership negotiations in respect of employment standards, which includes new legislation as well as the establishment of a national employment rights authority, will provide confidence for the future in a rapidly changing labour market. It will also ensure Ireland continues to provide an excellent environment for business and job creation. The social partnership process has provided a good mechanism for balancing flexibility and security. The European Commission has recognised this and it is cited as an example of how so-called flexicurity policies can work. There are different models of flexicurity and much has been achieved here under that heading although we have not given it that title. The Commission communication emphasises the need for social dialogue in the development of flexicurity policies, and the European social partners recently agreed joint recommendations on reconciling flexibility and security. Our experience has shown that social dialogue is essential and I hope the well-established partnership process will continue as the mechanism to achieve the balance between flexibility and security.
Innovation is essential to safeguard and deliver high quality jobs, successful businesses and better products and services. The quality of our workplaces and their levels of innovation and change are critical to our ongoing transition to a dynamic, highly skilled and knowledge-based economy. The Taoiseach launched the national workplace strategy in 2005 to focus on stimulating workplace change and innovation. The strategy is the Government's blueprint to transform workplaces for the future with action concentrated on five priority areas: commitment to workplace innovation, capacity for change, developing future skills, access to opportunities and quality of working life. The strategy also recognises the critical role social partnership can play in this process.
The strategy identifies the need for greater innovation in products and processes and for more organisational innovation and related improvements in internal workplace cultures. It also highlights the need for improvements in organisational culture that facilitate the delivery of high quality services in private, public, community and voluntary sectors. The Taoiseach recently announced the establishment of a workplace innovation fund, accessible to individual companies and the social partners, which is being used to enhance the capacity for change in workplaces.
The competitiveness challenge outlines key policy recommendations that would help to restore our international competitiveness. To support the continued availability of a well-qualified workforce, the National Competitiveness Council suggests three policy areas that need to be addressed: participation, upskilling and attracting skills from abroad.
Participation is so important to the efficient operation of the labour market and for competitiveness in a global economy that we must continue to increase participation rates in the workplace. This involves increasing the rate of participation by women and excluded groups while facilitating the ongoing contribution of older, more experienced workers. Appropriate work-life balance policies and practices are essential to help us accommodate diversity. Senator Mary White has been very involved in ensuring older people make a positive contribution to society in the workplace and beyond, and she has a keen interest in these statements.
The Government is committed to a two-pronged approach to making workplaces more family friendly by providing statutory entitlements through legislative measures and through the voluntary approach in enterprises. The national framework committee for work-life balance policies encourages this approach. Earlier this year, the committee undertook two initiatives. One was a guide, entitled Work Life Balance: A Planned and Systematic Approach at Enterprise Level, providing practical advice to assist employers and their staff in developing a work-life balance. It recommended that employers develop a policy on work-life balance setting out the organisation's commitment to flexible working arrangements for staff. It should ensure there is no discrimination against staff availing of such arrangements and that work-life balance arrangements take account of staff diversity across the nine grounds covered by the equality legislation.
The second initiative involved establishing a panel of suitably qualified consultants funded by the committee. Businesses will be able to benefit from their support and expertise for training and advice in developing new work-life balance initiatives and interviewing and developing further existing work-life balance arrangements. Details of the panel will be announced soon in the national press and will be available from the national framework committee. This expanded support programme will enable organisations to put in place arrangements that suit the needs of business and employees alike. The correct balance between work and life in the workplace will benefit everybody in the long run.
The National Competitiveness Council has stated that further reforms of Ireland's labour tax system are required in addition to improved facilities for child care and better incentives and enabling structures for lone parents to participate in the labour force. The development of a knowledge intensive workforce is a long-term source of competitive advantage and policy efforts aimed at improving the quality of the labour force are essential. We have made substantial progress in this area recently, with significant increases in investment and improved outcomes in education and research and development. Our track record in education and skills investment has been a fundamental element of our recent economic success but we cannot rest on past success. Research by the expert group on future skills needs has made it clear we must continue to invest heavily in educating and upskilling our workforce, and making those without employment job-ready, so to speak, if we are to continue to attract blue chip companies, domestic and foreign owned, to provide the quality jobs our people deserve.
The competitiveness council recommends that additional training for workers with low levels of educational attainment should be a priority and that use should be made also of industry-led networks to support lifelong learning. The council has called for the development of greater incentives for individuals to participate in, and educational institutions to develop services for, part-time education.
Under the national development plan, my Department will invest €7.7 billion in upskilling the workforce to maintain access to the highest standards of education and training for all our people. Without such investment we will not be able to supply the labour skills required to compete in the knowledge-based, innovation-driven global economy of today.
The investment is divided between two areas. Approximately €2.8 billion will go towards upskilling people in employment, including new skills for those affected by industrial restructuring, as well as expanding and enlarging the apprenticeship system and further training for school leavers. Approximately €4.9 billion will be used to provide employment and training services to groups outside the workforce, including the unemployed, people with disabilities, women, lone parents, Travellers and ex-offenders.
The enterprise strategy group report highlighted our need to pursue a knowledge-based, innovation driven economy to maintain competitiveness into the future. A key labour market initiative is the implementation of a strategy based on the findings of the expert group on future skills needs report, Towards a National Skills Strategy. The objective of this strategy is to ensure that between now and 2020 we have the skills required to remain competitive in the global marketplace. This envisages that by 2020, a total of 48% of the labour force would have qualifications at national framework of qualifications, NFQ, levels six to ten, while 45% would have qualifications at levels four and five. Within this objective, Ireland aims to build capability at fourth level and double its PhD output, level 10, by 2013. This vision will be achieved by maximising the skills of the resident population through both education and training and at the same time continuing to attract a highly skilled migrant cohort from abroad.
To achieve the vision, a little more than half a million additional individuals will need to progress by at least one level of educational attainment above their current highest level. Some 300,000 of these workers will need to be trained up to leaving certificate level and the national skills strategy will encompass the One Step Up initiative that had been endorsed by the enterprise strategy group. In response to these changing demands for training and upskilling of workers, FÁS has already significantly increased its services to encourage and assist training for companies and people in employment. FÁS's strategy statement, Building on our Vision, focuses on the continued need to upskill the workforce to meet competitive challenges of the future. It also addresses the need to ensure greater access by all groups to FÁS services by increasing flexibility and customising FÁS services to clients' needs. In tandem, FÁS has developed a new training strategy identifying the nature and mix of FÁS training programmes and services required for the future. These strategies jointly provide the framework within which FÁS is contributing to the achievement of a knowledge-based economy.
Skillnets has also responded to the changing upskilling needs by developing and focussing its enterprise-led training networks. In addition, and in line with our commitment under Towards 2016 to engage with redundant workers and people facing the prospect of long-term unemployment to ensure that the period out of work for a substantial number of people is kept to a minimum, FÁS has developed a process of engagement with redundant workers. This process is flexible and adaptable to meet the needs and circumstances of company closures. The process generally involves establishment of a task force and agreement with all parties as to their responsibilities, with particular emphasis on the role FÁS has to play and how their services are to be provided. Information sessions in conjunction with skills audits and subsequent training provision form the backbone of interventions. Investment in human capital will, of course, run in tandem with the many billions being invested in our education system at all levels, from primary to post-graduate which, taken together, should make this country the place where indigenous entrepreneurs and foreign-owned enterprises look to set up base and grow their businesses, providing the employment opportunities for all.
As regards the National Competitiveness Council's third priority of attracting skills from abroad, there is increasing recognition in the EU that the mobilisation of skills across the EU is crucial to becoming the most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy within the new global economy. The labour market in Ireland is currently buoyant, with the total number of people in employment in the State at more than 2 million for the first time in our history. However, it is important that we are not complacent and continue to work to maintain and develop a dynamic economy that responds effectively to the evolving demands of international competitiveness. Ireland is fully committed to playing its part in managing the EU transition to knowledge-based investment. In May 2004 we, along with the UK and Sweden, opened our borders to the workers of the ten new member states and the success of this policy has been remarkable. Today 240,000 people in Ireland's workforce are foreign nationals and almost half of these are from the new member states. The presence of these workers has made a significant contribution to our economy and society, helped to maintain economic growth at rates far above the European average and addressed labour and skills shortages. A continuing challenge for the Irish labour market is to bring in from outside the European Economic Area, EEA, those skills which we cannot source from within the EEA and which we need to progress our economy to one that is knowledge-based and innovation-driven. Our implementation, earlier this year, of a new green card system for highly skilled non-EEA nationals was an important initiative in this regard.
There is no doubt, however, that with labour mobility come responsibilities. I am referring to areas such as education, public services and housing. The current economic climate offers Ireland opportunities to not only reform its immigration programmes, but also a key challenge in implementing a robust integration strategy. Our positive early experience of migration does not automatically mean that migrants will integrate sufficiently into Irish society or the Irish economy and a vibrant civil society is pivotal to successful integration. Therefore, in working towards integration we should adapt our mainstream policies and services, rather than create separate services for migrant groups. How do we successfully adapt social policy to the needs of a growing and increasingly diverse population? This growing scale and diversity provide the overarching context for future policy making. Integration is a process that is multi-dimensional and we therefore need to deal with the economic and social issues which it raises in a way that is joined up. We also need to be flexible in the way we respond to changes and issues as they arise.
In conclusion, I believe Ireland is now at an exciting moment of transformation which, if well managed, can deal with the challenges of globalisation and bring better, more adaptable services provided by people who feel increasingly confident in their ability to address the needs of a more diverse Ireland.