The economy is in a strong position having recovered impressively from the financial crisis and the subsequent recession. At its peak in early 2012, the unemployment rate was 16% and almost 50,000 Irish people emigrated that year. Currently, the unemployment rate is down to 5.3% in September 2019 and there are more people employed in Ireland than ever before.
Since the launch of the first Action Plan for Jobs in Q1 2012 there has been a 20 per cent increase in employment outside Dublin. The target set out in the Programme for Government is the creation 135,000 jobs outside Dublin by 2020. As of Q2 2019, some 136,000 jobs have been created outside Dublin.
Employment has increased in six of the eight regions over the twelve months between Q2 2018 and Q2 2019. Over the year to Q2 2019 employment grew faster in the West (5.1 per cent), Border (3.9 per cent), Midland (3.3 per cent), Mid-East (3.3 per cent) and Dublin (3.1 per cent) than in the State overall (2.0 per cent). Furthermore, 52 per cent of newly employed people were living outside Dublin in the year to Q2 2019.
At a regional level, the goal is to have a further 10 to 15 per cent at work in each region by 2020 and ensure that the unemployment rate is within 1 percentage point of the State average. As of Q2 2019, six of the eight regions had unemployment rates within 1% or the national average. The exceptions to this were the Midland and South-East regions.
While we can be proud of the progress made, there is no room for complacency. Significant vulnerabilities are evident in the domestic economy such as declining productivity levels in small-to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Infrastructural constraints, skills deficits and labour availability, as well as concentrations in some sectors and markets could, unless ameliorated, impede further progress. Internationally, Brexit, growing trade protectionism and the undermining of the rules-based international trading system threaten our future economic welfare.
The Government is ambitious to build upon the gains we have made in recent years and to ensure our people enjoy higher standards of living and quality of life now, and into the future. By 2025, our workers and enterprises will be operating in a changed economy. As detailed in Enterprise 2025 – Ireland’s National Enterprise Policy 2015-2025 and Enterprise 2025 Renewed – Building Resilience in the Face of Global Challenges, we need to shift our enterprise and jobs focus to ensure quality jobs that will be resilient into the future. For these reasons, earlier this year, the Government launched Future Jobs Ireland 2019 – Preparing Now for Tomorrow’s Economy.
Future Jobs Ireland is a whole-of-Government multi-annual framework designed with the aim of integrating innovation and resilience into our economy and actioning critical elements of our national enterprise policy. It will ensure our enterprises and workers are well-positioned to adapt to the technological and other transformational changes our economy and society will face in the years ahead. Future Jobs Ireland focuses on five Pillars in the areas of:
Embracing innovation and technological change;
Improving SME productivity;
Enhancing skills and developing and attracting talent;
Increasing participation in the labour force; and
Transitioning to a low carbon economy.
Future Jobs Ireland 2019 sets out core ambitions for each of these Pillars, each backed up by a set of specific deliverables representing crucial steps toward achieving each ambition. The deliverables for 2019 represent the first stage of Future Jobs Ireland which will be built upon in subsequent annual editions.
Future Jobs Ireland builds upon and complements several Government strategies which enhance the potential of the regions in terms of economic development in particular Project Ireland 2040 which sets out an integrated spatial and public investment framework for the development of our regions to 2040. The Future Jobs Ireland agenda also aligns with the ambitions of regional initiatives such as the Regional Enterprise Plans and the Action Plan for Rural Development. The Regional Enterprise Plans foster a collaborative approach in each region, bringing together Local Authorities, the enterprise agencies, higher and further education institutions, Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs), the business community, and others, to work towards a better future for their region.
A Future Jobs Ireland Summit will be held this November, bringing together key stakeholders, to help develop Future Jobs Ireland 2020. Officials from my Department, alongside officials from the Department of the Taoiseach, are now coordinating inputs from across Government Departments and agencies, business representative groups, social partners, academia, industry and other interested parties in order to develop the next iteration, Future Jobs Ireland 2020 which will be launched in the new year and which will further prepare our enterprises and people across Ireland for tomorrow's economy.