I, and my Department, understand the importance of remote and flexible working and the potential of new digital technologies to support well-paid employment in all parts of the country. As the nature of work and society changes, the way we organise work is also changing. A labour market which offers flexible working solutions can result in tangible benefits for employers, employees and wider society.
With cities becoming increasingly crowded leading to scarce accommodation and increased commutes, remote work is an intervention with the potential to lessen accommodation pressures and support the transition to a greener economy. Remote work also has the potential to stimulate regional growth and to widen the talent pool in Ireland.
Harnessing this potential is a key focus of Pillar 4 of the Government's Future Jobs Ireland initiative. This Pillar is focussed on increasing participation in the labour force and more equitable, balanced and sustainable development of Ireland’s workforce. As part of this, my Department is conducting research on remote working to understand the prevalence and types of remote working arrangements within the Irish workforce and the attitudes towards such arrangements.
The research will also be informed by the inputs from a Remote Working Consultation Forum that I hosted in Cavan Digital Hub in July and which was attended by key stakeholders.
During February and March this year, I launched nine new Regional Enterprise Plans to 2020, including the new Regional Enterprise Plan for the Mid-West region, which covers Clare, Limerick and Tipperary.
The Regional Enterprise Plan for the Mid-West, which includes Co. Clare has as one of its Strategic Objectives to create and roll-out a regionally co-ordinated co-working Smart e-Hub network, bringing talent and space together. The aim is to build on the region’s value proposition as a location of choice to live and work and is led by the local authorities in Clare, Limerick and Tipperary, working in partnership with community groups such as the IFA, ICA, Community Enterprise Centres, LEADER etc and Education and Training Boards.
The project complements work already undertaken by local authorities and existing hubs. One of these new projects is Digiclare, a new initiative of Clare County Council as part of its Rural Development Strategy to support rural communities by providing flexible, affordable and local office facilities and high-speed broadband connectivity in rural locations in County Clare. In March 2018, the first three digital hubs in Kilrush, Feakle and Miltown Malbay were opened. Over the next 12 months, a digital hub will be developed in Ennis, including a hot desk facility and incubation units. A multi-service centre incorporating a digital hub and other social/community services is planned for development in Ennistymon.
Hubs and remote/co-working space in general will play an integral role in revitalising towns and villages in every region of the country.