Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Questions (1005)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

1005. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the work her Department is undertaking in conjunction with the Department of Justice and Equality as part of Future Jobs Ireland to develop guidelines to facilitate employers in offering more family-friendly working options; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32443/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

The Irish economy has experienced unprecedented growth in recent years. According to the latest Labour Force Survey, there are 2,301,900 people in employment as of Q1 2019, and all-time high with an unemployment rate of 4.4% as of May 2019.

Under Ambition 4.2 (i), Future Jobs Ireland 2019 assigns the following deliverable to my Department for implementation:

“Undertake research on the prevalence and types of remote working arrangements within the Irish workforce, and the attitudes towards such working arrangements, as well as the factors which inhibit employers and employees to partake in such arrangements”.

To support this new piece of research, my Department hosted a Remote Working Consultation Event in Cavan Digital Hub on 18th July last. The purpose of this forum was to garner insights from a broad range of stakeholders on remote working. It was attended by a diverse range of representatives across the area of remote work advocacy, enterprise, academia and Government. These stakeholders participated in breakout sessions on the topic of remote work, engaging in a solution-focused national conversation centred on remote work in Ireland.

The research called for in Future Jobs Ireland 2019 will form a report which aims to establish a clear definition of what is meant by ‘remote work’, assess its prevalence in Ireland and the categories of remote work available to workers. It will also include as assessment of current attitudes to remote work from the perspectives of employees, employers and policy makers and identification of key influencing factors for those considering remote work solutions.

To guide this work, an Interdepartmental Steering Group has been formed with representatives from my Department, Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Department of Rural and Community Development, Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Department of Justice and Equality and Department of An Taoiseach. The research will include desk research, identification of key data sources and one-on-one consultation with key stakeholders in addition to the Remote Working Consultation Event.

In addition to producing a cohesive and meaningful research paper on the prevalence of remote work in Ireland, which fulfils the deliverable as stated in Future Jobs Ireland 2019, this work will inform the development of policy recommendations on intelligent working arrangements, such as remote or flexible working, which will be completed by the end of the year.

Remote work is evidently growing in popularity in Ireland. According to the Census, 56,774 people outside the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector were home workers in 2016, an increase of 20% from the 2011 figure, which was 47,193.

There has been considerable work around Remote Work in Ireland to date, including the following:

- The Regional Enterprise Plans to 2020, published by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, contain actions aimed at promoting the use of flexible working solutions and enterprise hubs.

- The Department of Rural and Community Development and Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment launched the Smart Community initiative in January 2019, which emphasises the importance of flexible working solutions.

- The Western Development Commission has been undertaking research on remote working and e-hubs, some of which will be published in 2019.

- Enterprise Ireland’s corporate strategy, Powering the Regions, contained targets for creating co-working spaces for each region over the years 2016-2018.

The challenge ahead is ensuring businesses in Ireland are embracing the opportunities posed by new technologies and the availability of different remote working models as well as the growing importance of flexibility to the Irish talent pool. To achieve this, it is vital to understand, from the perspectives of enterprise and employees alike, the main factors that come into play when considering remote work policies and how these can influence employees and employers’ engagement with them. The research being conducted by my Department will be vital in this regard.