Dáil debates

Thursday, 12 July 2012

6:00 pm

Photo of Peadar TóibínPeadar Tóibín (Meath West, Sinn Fein)
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Question 2: To ask the Minister for Jobs; Enterprise and Innovation in view of the 14.9% unemployment rate for the month of June, the effect this may have on his plans to create 100,000 additional jobs. [34247/12]

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Minister, Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation; Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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The Government is fully committed to its target of achieving a net increase of 100,000 persons at work by 2016 and improving job prospects for those who are out of work. To achieve this target, the Government has put in place two major programmes, the Action Plan for Jobs and Pathways to Work. These programmes are focused on delivery.

This Government is seeking to undertake a huge transformation of our economy to achieve these goals. Huge damage has been done to the fabric of our economy by the property bubble and the flawed policies which underpinned it. Competitiveness was lost, export markets were lost, our banks were crippled and hundreds of thousands of jobs were lost. However, through the Action Plan for Jobs we are bringing about the necessary changes to achieve this transformation. Every Department and more than 35 offices and agencies have contributed practical actions that will be delivered by 2012 to promote employment. At the end of the first quarter of 2012, 96% of the measures due for delivery under the Action Plan for Jobs were implemented on time. I am also commencing consultation on the 2013 Action Plan for Jobs and I welcome all inputs to this process.

As the Deputy is aware, the Action Plan for Jobs contained a significant number of innovations in a number of employment-generating areas. In terms of access to finance, it provided for microfinance and loan guarantee schemes, the development capital fund and the improved seed capital tax relief scheme. Regarding new markets, we have introduced initiatives for first time exporters and focused our diplomatic resources on trade.

To support start-ups and small business, we are reforming supports to small businesses, we have introduced initiatives for community enterprise centres, a clustering programme, the competitive start fund, and we are improving access to public procurement for small and medium sized enterprises. We have also focused on tax incentives and improvements in competitiveness as a means of employment growth.

Employment trends within the agency supported companies are improving in an environment where there has been an export-led economic expansion. A great deal more work has to be done and I am now commencing consultation on the Action Plan for Jobs 2013.

Employment trends within the agency supported companies are improving in an environment where there has been an export-led economic expansion. A great deal more work has to be done and I am now commencing consultation on the Action Plan for Jobs 2013.

Photo of Peadar TóibínPeadar Tóibín (Meath West, Sinn Fein)
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We are at a crisis point on this issue. It is the biggest problem facing the State and it is progressively getting worse under the stewardship of the Minister's Government. The human face of this crisis is that 450,000 people are unemployed in this State. It is estimated that another two citizens are usually linked to the unemployed person. The crash in income experienced by those unemployed and the negative human experience of unemployment is reaching 1.3 million people directly.

The live register figures we saw recently indicate an unemployment rate of 14.9% but, according to the Census of Population, roughly 19% of the population of the State is unemployed. The real figure is between 15% and 19%. Long-term unemployment figures have increased from 40% to 45%. Nearly 200,000 people in this State are unemployed for as long as this Government has been in office. This is a shocking and startling figure. This is despite 70,000 people emigrating in a year, nine people every single hour. I ask the Minister to imagine if this release valve was not there how much worse these figures would be.

He spoke about the jobs plan but this is ignoring the real issue which is the unemployment crisis. The avalanche of spin is all very well but two key ingredients are missing.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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A question, please, Deputy.

Photo of Peadar TóibínPeadar Tóibín (Meath West, Sinn Fein)
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Money is needed and also proper targets. What targets has the Minister in mind to ensure that the promised 100,000 additional jobs will be achieved? Given the current economic situation, how will those targets be achieved?

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Minister, Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation; Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy knows that the Government has set a series of targets of 270 actions to be taken this year to deliver a transformation in our economy. As I said in my reply, many systems are seriously broken. The banking system is not performing to a standard and as a result we have had to introduce numerous measures to support business in getting access to finance. This includes the microfinance initiative, the loan guarantee scheme and the development capital scheme. These are all designed to plug gaps in a system that is not serving business sufficiently. We recognise the need to rebuild our export base and through Enterprise Ireland this is beginning to happen. There was a exceptional 14% growth in exports last year. We have established a first-time exporters division to encourage more exporters.

Any level of unemployment is disappointing but the Deputy needs to consider what is happening in the area of employment creation. The IDA has had its best year in a decade in employment terms, with new jobs created and a lower rate of job loss. Enterprise Ireland has stabilised the numbers in employment after several years of massive job losses. Enterprise Ireland is showing growth in its employment base in the first three months of this year.

Photo of Peadar TóibínPeadar Tóibín (Meath West, Sinn Fein)
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People will note the Government is listing the number of its action plans when people would prefer the Government to deal with the jobs problem. While the Government's jobs action plan has some good points, the proportion of the problem and the proportion of the proposed solution are not meeting up, unfortunately. Enterprise Ireland created a net number of six new jobs last year. This is a phenomenal figure considering the problems we face.

The Department forecasted an unemployment rate of 14.3% to the end of the year but it is currently 14.9% and there was a collapse in the growth figures for the first quarter of last year. The Government should set out its job creation targets for the future. If the Government cannot measure it cannot manage. We will arrive at 2016 with no targets achieved. It is time the Government realises the necessity for a Government-led multi-billion euro stimulus for the economy. The funds are available in the National Pensions Reserve Fund and a well-disposed private pensions industry and the European Investment Bank.

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Minister, Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation; Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy needs to recognise that enterprise will create employment in the economy. The turnaround in the performance of all the export-oriented companies and IDA and Enterprise Ireland is a significant achievement after a number of years of reversal. The Deputy is correct that there are innovative ways to bring new investment into the economy. The Ministers, Deputies Howlin and Noonan, are working on those initiatives. The recent meeting with the European Investment Bank is very significant. The new approach in Europe is helpful and there has been a new approach from the troika which is a relaxation in the terms on which asset sales can be turned into immediate investments. Those Ministers are putting together a programme for finding innovative ways of stimulating investment which will have a long-term impact. This is the focus of the effort. This is a significant challenge at a time when the State is in a very difficult financial arena. However, there are real signs of progress and we need to build on them.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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We will now take Question No. 1 in the name of Deputy Willie O'Dea.