The number of redundancies notified to my Department in the years specified, were 13,316 in 2000, 19,977 in 2001, 25,358 in 2002, and 27,702 in 2003. The increasing level of redundancies reflects slower economic activity in Ireland in line with difficult economic conditions worldwide. The quarterly national household survey prepared by the Central Statistics Office last December, shows that employment growth continued in the third quarter of 2003 with an increase of 26,000 to bring the total number of persons in employment to 1.82 million.
The Government's focus is on improving competitiveness which is critical to sustaining and developing both the manufacturing and international traded services sectors. Policy initiatives by the Government and the State development agencies are aimed at helping the country progress towards a knowledge and innovation-driven economy. The enterprise strategy group, which I established in July 2003, has been given the task of developing strategic policy recommendations for enterprise in Ireland up to 2010.