Thursday, 11 March 2004

Questions (27)

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

26 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the figures for the level of industrial employment at the latest date for which figures are available; the way in which they compare with the equivalent date in each of the previous five years; the steps being taken to counter the decline in industrial employment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8095/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

The figures for average annual level of industrial employment between 1998 and 2002 together with the latest provisional figure, which is for September 2003, are as follows:

Average Annual Industrial Employment 1998-2002

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003 (Sept.)

257,900

257,000

266,700

269,000

256,500

241,500

Source: CSO — Industrial Employment

The decline in industrial employment since 2001 undoubtedly reflects the difficult business conditions in the global marketplace in recent years. However, we must also bear in mind that the numbers in employment overall have continued to rise throughout this period. The fact that employment has grown by over 440,000 since 1997 reflects favourably on the Government's management of the economy in difficult circumstances. While industrial employment has tended to reduce in the past two years, employment in international and financial services has displayed remarkable resilience to international difficulties and has more than offset the contraction in industrial jobs. Among firms within these sectors, supported by agencies under my Department, employment has grown consistently from 39,500 in 1998 to over 66,500 in 2003, an increase of 68.5%. Employment in these sectors remained relatively stable last year, which is quite an achievement given the readjustment of financial markets after a period of international upheaval.

Our business support agencies are undertaking co-ordinated strategies to sustain and promote growth in industrial employment. More resources are targeted towards underpinning the competitiveness of existing companies in Ireland, by encouraging existing clients to move into higher value products and higher order functions, such as R& D and more complex or demanding services. IDA Ireland, for example, is pursuing high quality new FDI that is in keeping with the competitive characteristics of the modern Irish economy.

Our objective is to excel in niche areas of biotechnology, software and information and communications technologies. In conjunction with the private sector, Enterprise Ireland, EI, has developed a range of seed and venture capital funds, in many cases dedicated to specific emerging technologies or focused on business development in the regions outside of Dublin. More companies are being persuaded to put product and process innovation at the centre of their growth plans and for this to become an embedded feature of their strategic development. EI's other focus on increasing export capacity in indigenous firms has not diminished.

Furthermore, I have set up the enterprise strategy group, under the chairmanship of Eoin O'Driscoll. I want the group to recommend and prioritise new strategies and policies to ensure that the prosperity we enjoyed in the last decade will continue into the future. It will examine how to strengthen our enterprise environment, to promote an innovation and a knowledge driven economy while helping sustain those industries already providing employment here. The group will report to me in a few months.