Government policy to reduce unemployment is twofold. The policies set out in the Action Plan for Jobs have created an environment in which business can succeed and has led to the creation of more than 400,000 jobs since the economic low point. Secondly, through the Pathways to Work strategy, my Department ensures that as many new jobs as possible are filled by people taken from the live register, particularly the long-term unemployed.
Activation Policy continues to focus on support measures for the long-term unemployed. My Department's Intreo service offers a range of education, training and employment support measures during the activation process to help jobseekers secure and sustain full-time employment.
The Pathways to Work strategy prioritises long-term unemployed people, most notably through targeted wage subsidies under JobsPlus; and through reserved places for long-term unemployed jobseekers on employment and training programmes. Furthermore, activation services provided by, or on behalf of my Department through contracted services, provide appropriate activation services for jobseekers in a one-to-one case managed way.
To date these policies have been effective in reducing long-term unemployment. I welcome the most recent data from the CSO Labour Force Survey which shows that the rate of long-term unemployment in Ireland which peaked at 9.5% in 2012 has fallen to 1.7% by the first quarter of 2019. Ireland has therefore already brought the long term unemployment rate below 2.5%, a target set out in Pathways to Work 2016-2020.
This downward trend is welcome and reflects the impact of government policy to create more jobs and reduce unemployment. However, we can't be complacent. My Department continues to review its labour market activation policies to ensure that they remain effective and aligned to labour market requirements. For example, my Department is currently reviewing options to help long-term unemployed people in the over-50 age bracket for whom conventional approaches in the past have not worked.
Over the coming years, we must make sure that our citizens are equipped with the skills to take up jobs of the future and avail of the opportunities arising from a modern economy. Future Jobs Ireland 2019 has been launched by Government, replacing the Action Plan for Jobs to deliver the required policy reforms to build a resilient workforce and innovative and competitive economy in a changing world of work. One of its five key pillars focuses on 'Increasing Participation in the Labour Force' and includes specific measures to address barriers to participation and develop a more equitable and sustainable workforce.
The policies being pursued by Government to create jobs and reduce unemployment have been effective and they will support further reductions in long-term unemployment and add to the substantial improvements that have already been seen over the last few years.