Thursday, 7 March 2019
Ceisteanna - Questions - Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
Regional Action Plan for Jobs
I wish to ask the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation about the regional spread of additional jobs added over 2018. We have raised this issue a couple of times. There is no point in us saying there is a regional balance in job creation through IDA Ireland as more than half of the new jobs created are in the Dublin area, while the rest of the country is being neglected. Perhaps the Minister might elaborate on what she intends to do to address the regional imbalance.
Since the launch of the regional Action Plan for Jobs in 2015 there has been an increase of 266,900 people in employment across the State, with 166,400 people at the end of 2018 in the regions outside Dublin entering employment in that period. Overall, the recently published 2018 quarter 4 CSO labour force survey employment figures are very positive. The survey shows that employment continues to grow strongly, with 50,500 jobs created in the year from the fourth quarter of 2017 to quarter 4 in 2018. That brings total employment to 2,281,300, the highest number at work ever recorded. During this period, the number employed increased, while the unemployment rate decreased in all regions. While the number in employment increased in six of the eight regions in the last year, the exceptions are the mid-west and the Border region. We remain committed to achieving an overall jobs uplift of between 10% and 15% in each region by 2020 and bringing or maintaining unemployment levels in each region to within at least one percentage point of the State average.
Unemployment has fallen in every region since the launch of the regional Action Plan for Jobs. Only two regions, the midlands and the south east, are outside the unemployment target set for 2020. Earlier this month I announced very good results from the local enterprise offices throughout the State. Overall, they supported the creation of 3,656 net new jobs in 2018. All regions saw increases in IDA Ireland employment during 2018, with the midlands region experiencing the highest growth, at 14%. Two thirds, or 64%, of new Enterprise Ireland jobs created in 2018 were outside Dublin. The north west saw the largest level of increases, at 9%. In April 2018 I asked all of the regional Action Plan for Jobs implementation committees to start a process to refresh and refocus all regional plans to ensure their relevance and impact to 2020 in order that they could continue to deliver jobs across the country in every region.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
It will also help the plans to be robust to address the challenges we face, including Brexit. The outcome of the refresh process is nine new regional enterprise plans to 2020 which build on the very strong progress made in employment creation under the regional Action Plan for Jobs for the period 2015 to 2017. I am in the process of launching the new plans, with eight plans launched to date.
We can quote statistics all day long, but when one drills down into the macro statistics, we have to accept that there are pockets in Ireland that have not benefited. In Deputy Eugene Murphy's constituency of Roscommon, for example, some 900 people leave the county every morning to travel to work in Dublin. There is a huge regional imbalance. I put it to the Minister that 51% of the jobs created last year were in the greater Dublin area and that 45% of GDP is generated in that area. There is a huge disparity between rural Ireland and Dublin. When one city generates 45% of GDP, there is a major problem. It is a problem for rural parts of Ireland and equally a problem for Dublin because it is congested and spilling in on top of itself. We need to have system in which there is a genuine focus on shifting job creation from the Dublin area to the peripheral areas. That is not happening at the speed and with the timing needed to ensure rural Ireland will get its fair share in the upturn which we all accept is happening.
I am absolutely committed to increasing employment in the regions. The jobs plan is working. Job creation in the regions is my number one priority. In 2018 more jobs were created in IDA Ireland client companies outside Dublin than at any point in the past 17 years. Every region of the country saw foreign direct investment driven job gains. There are now more than 132,000 people employed in IDA Ireland client firms outside the capital. This represents nearly 60% of all IDA Ireland supported employment. That is just one example. More than 215,000 people are now employed by Enterprise Ireland supported companies, while 60% of all new jobs created by Enterprise Ireland client companies in 2018 were outside Dublin. Two thirds of all Enterprise Ireland supported employment is now outside Dublin.
The Deputy made reference to the west. Deputy Eugene Murphy is sitting beside him. The western region includes counties Galway, Mayo and Roscommon. I have visited the region in which there has been huge investment under the regional enterprise development fund. Huge work has also been done by the local regional steering committee.
I can throw out statistics across all day long, but the simple fact from the CSO labour force survey for quarter 4 of 2018 is that 51% of the jobs created were in Dublin. I am referring to gains. In the Border region there was a 0% gain. There was also a 0% gain in the mid-west. That is the harsh reality of life in rural Ireland, as I do not need to tell the Minister who is a Deputy for a Border county. She knows it intimately. The reality is that Dublin is attracting all of the inward investment. As I said, 51% of the jobs created last year were in Dublin, while 45% of GDP was also generated there. That is an unsustainable policy to continue to adapt. If we do not do something quickly and radical, we will have a situation where Dublin will become a dysfunctional city because it will not be able to sustain itself. It does not have the infrastructure or transport capacity required. There are housing problems, as well as a lack of services, including education services. We need to refocus for the benefit of Dublin and rural areas to ensure a regional balance.
I agree that we need a strong city and regions. That is why I launched the regional enterprise plans. There are nine plans in total and I have travelled around the country to work with local stakeholders, including the local authorities, local enterprise offices, the agencies, the regional skills fora and Enterprise Ireland which are all coming together. The chairmen have put forward some really good plans. There is, therefore, a lot of good things happening in the regions. I was in The Hive in Carrick-on-Shannon in which 80 people are employed. This is a locally driven enterprise centre with plans to increase employment to 150. I was in the Food Hub in Drumshanbo which is the home of Drumshanbo Gin which is exported all over the world. All of these projects have been supported from the regional enterprise development fund in my Department. It is additional to all of the other funds that find their way into rural Ireland in which there is a huge amount of investment. I could start to list all of the areas and funding received. For example, the mid-east region has received €32 million. The mid-west region has received €50 million-----