My Department is fully aware of the importance of maintaining and increasing participation rates in the labour market. Particularly, as we draw closer to full employment, it is essential we continue to provide enterprise in Ireland with a high-quality, adaptable and flexible talent pool. My Department closely monitors trends in labour market participation rates. Using the latest available comparable data, the female participation rate in Ireland (56.4%) is significantly above the EU 28 average (52.1%).  While the female participation rate has been growing in Ireland over the last number of years, there is still untapped potential in this area.
My Department actively ensures that suitable policies are in place to support increased participation across the economy. For example, Action 28 of the Action Plan for Jobs 2018 called for the identification of ‘relevant policy issues for cohorts with low participation rates based on analysis of patterns of labour market participation’. This action was fulfilled in H2 2018 under the guidance of an interdepartmental steering group. The analysis undertaken focused on three cohorts: females aged 25-55, people aged 55 and over, and people aged under 55 with a disability. In focussing on these cohorts, the analysis identified areas for further examination and was a key input to Future Jobs Ireland.
Future Jobs Ireland identifies increasing participation in the labour force as one of its key pillars. It acknowledges that improving participation means the more equitable, balanced and sustainable development of our workforce. Future Jobs Ireland sets the target of a substantial 3 percentage point increase in overall participation rates for people aged 25 to 69 years by 2025 with higher increases for females and older people. In order to achieve this target, the framework details relevant ambitions underpinned by deliverables. The ambitions and deliverables relevant to increasing female participation include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Encouraging participation in the labour force through high-quality Early Learning and Care. This ambition is underpinned by deliverables to complement the implementation of the Affordable Childcare Scheme including the introduction of additional ways to reduce costs, enhance supply and improve quality.
- Fostering participation in the labour force through flexible working solutions. This ambition assists in the development of an inclusive society. It is underpinned by a number of deliverables including the development of guidance for employers on family-friendly working options and the extension of unpaid Parental Leave to allow for greater flexibility of parents.
- Improving incentives to participate in the labour force. This ambition includes a deliverable to consider income tax arrangements for second earners that optimise financial incentive to work, taking account of the impact that the income tax system may have on female participation in the workforce.
- Encouraging adult dependents and beneficiaries of other full-time welfare payments to engage in activation, enter and/or stay in the workforce. This is ambition is underpinned by deliverables such as the development of a return to work service as part of the Public Employment Service offering; assisting women returned to work in the technology sector through Skillnets Ireland Women ReBOOT programme; and a review of recent analyses of inactivity to identify policy issues to support the development of policy responses.
- Undertaking promotional campaigns to encourage greater levels of participation in the labour force. This ambition is underpinned by deliverables including a communications campaign to promote awareness of the Public Employment Service as a real recruitment option, especially for those groups with lower participation rates; and the development of promotions for female participation as part of Jobs Week 2019 and Jobs Fairs.
 Eurostat Labour Force Survey, Activity rates by sex, age and citizenship (%), Females aged 15 and over; Q3 2018: available from http://appsso.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/nui/submitViewTableAction.do