The configuration of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment brings together a number of functions in a single Department, that have promoting quality jobs at their core. This recognises that enterprise and employment are not competing factors, but rather complementary. Only by growing our competitiveness, increasing our trade performance, and expanding enterprise performance can we produce sustainable high quality jobs. Similarly, only by ensuring that we have a well trained and confident workforce can enterprise flourish.
Calls for alternative configurations appear to stem from a failed paradigm that places jobs and welfare at work in competition with enterprise. Such a view leads to the development of zero-sum policies where the political champions of one perspective are pitted against those of the other. We have a different and more positive view; one that seeks to grow the quality and number of jobs by growing trade and enterprise. We seek policies that recognise the globalised nature of this modern economy. We seek win-win strategies.
Moving away from political philosophy, it is instructive to look at our track record. Since 1993, when the new configuration was started, we have seen jobs and real wages growth of an unprecedented nature, we have introduced the national minimum wage and seen a significant improvement in the legislative framework protecting workers. The welfare of workers, especially those most exposed to low incomes, has been transformed during this period. This has also helped sustain, and be sustained by, a parallel and unprecedented improvement in trade and enterprise performance. The evidence is inescapable.
While the factors supporting this transformation are manifold, and social partnership clearly played its part, our pro-enterprise and pro-jobs policies have made a real difference. Following the last election, the Government affirmed its conviction that the current configuration of the Department is right for Ireland. I strongly oppose any rowing back on this winning strategy.