The economy is in a strong position having recovered from the financial crisis and the subsequent recession. The unemployment rate is down to 4.4% and there are 2.3 million people employed in Ireland, more than ever before. However, there are several risks facing the Irish economy which may constrain economic performance including infrastructural constraints. We also face risks on the international stage including Brexit, growing trade protectionism and the undermining of the rules-based international trading system which could threaten our future economic welfare.
Ireland remains a highly competitive economy and performs well in international competitiveness scorecards and is regularly ranked as one of the most competitive economies in the EU. However, this strong competitiveness position cannot be taken for granted. There is no room for complacency which is why improving Ireland’s competitiveness is a key priority for this Government, and my Department.
The Government is ambitious to build upon the gains we have made in recent years and to ensure our people enjoy higher standards of living and quality of life now, and into the future. Future Jobs Ireland 2019, which was launched on 10 March 2019, is the first part of a new multi-annual framework, up until 2025, to ensure our enterprises and workers are resilient and prepared for future challenges and opportunities. Future Jobs Ireland is an opportunity for managed and sustainable growth aimed at future proofing our economy. This is a whole of Government approach, which will form a key part of Ireland’s economic agenda over the medium term.
Future Jobs Ireland focuses on five key Pillars, namely:
1. Embracing Innovation and technological change;
2. Improving SME productivity;
3. Enhancing skills and developing and attracting talent;
4. Increasing participation in the labour force; and
5. Transitioning to a low carbon economy.
Future Jobs Ireland 2019 sets out core ambitions for each of these Pillars, each backed up by a set of specific deliverables representing crucial steps toward achieving each ambition. These deliverables are built on engagement, including through the national Future Jobs Summit held in November 2018 which brought Government and stakeholders together to discuss the Pillars within Future Jobs Ireland. The deliverables for 2019 represent the first stage of Future Jobs Ireland which will be built on in subsequent editions annually.
Future Jobs Ireland is one of a number of Government initiatives designed to embed resilience in the Irish economy and harness opportunities for growth. Project Ireland 2040, the Climate Action Plan to Tackle Climate Breakdown, Global Ireland 2015, and the National Skills Strategy will all contribute to continued and sustainable growth.
By 2025, our workers and enterprises will be operating in a changed economy. It is time to shift our enterprise and jobs focus to ensure quality jobs that will be resilient into the future. We are witnessing rapid technological advances presenting challenges and also new possibilities. Certain job roles will disappear or be redefined and new job roles will appear requiring new and different skillsets. We want Ireland to be at the frontier of technological developments internationally. To do this we must enable and encourage innovation across sectors and firms. Work must also be done to increase the absorptive capacity and new ways of working across all types of business, and particularly within SMEs.
Technological adoption will mean changes in the labour intensity of important sectors in our economy. As workers transition between occupations and sectors, a greater focus will be required on re-skilling and up-skilling those already at work that are at risk, improving lifelong learning, as well as ensuring graduates are equipped with the skills to contribute in the high technology economy of the future.
The importance of having a skilled workforce cannot be exaggerated. But we also need to inculcate a lifelong learning culture. The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN), which operates under the aegis of my Department, plays an important role in advising Government on future skills requirements and associated labour market issues that impact on enterprise development and employment growth. It is a key component of Ireland’s skills architecture, carrying out strategic research into emerging skills needs and presenting its findings to the National Skills Council (NSC) where priority areas can be identified and addressed.