Tuesday, 2 November 2021
Ceisteanna - Questions - Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
I ask the Minister of State to outline the number of jobs that have been created in the last 12 months in the constituency of Cork South-West. I would appreciate it if he could provide me with a breakdown of the figures and the geographical spread of those jobs. It is a huge constituency that spans all the way from Inishannon and Kinsale to Dursey Island, Mizen Head and Sheep's Head. Employment and the provision of good, decent jobs is a huge concern in the constituency. I would appreciate it if the Minister of State could outline where the jobs have been created in the past 12 months.
I thank the Deputy for the question. I am sorry that the exact information that the Deputy requested is not readily available just yet, but as soon as we have it, or updated figures for the last number of months, we will bring it to the Deputy.
I can inform the Deputy about the jobs created within Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland's client base for 2020. The CSO also provides data from the labour force survey, although it does not record whether a job is newly created.
My Department collects data on employment in the client companies of our agencies, namely, Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland and Údarás na Gaeltachta, as well as engaging with the local enterprise offices, LEOs, on an annual basis. The data provided through the annual employment survey for 2020 tells us that 2,702 net jobs were created within Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland client companies in the south-west region, including counties Kerry and Cork, which covers the region referenced by the Deputy.
According to the CSO, the most recent employment figures available under the labour force survey are for quarter 2 of 2021. Employment for the south-west region was 309,000 in quarter 2 of 2020 and increased to 332,200 in quarter 2 of this year, an increase of 23,200. Looking at employment in quarter 2 of 2019 to show pre-pandemic times, employment was 319,900. Therefore, the increase from pre-Covid times to quarter 2 of this year is 12,300 for the region.
Employment figures for LEO clients are also available for 2019 and 2020. The net change in jobs for the south Cork LEO, which covers the Deputy's area was 97 jobs created in 2019 and ten in 2020, which reflects the pandemic that we have just come through.
As the Deputy will be aware, the economic recovery plan, which was published in June, sets an ambitious target to exceed pre-crisis employment levels by having 2.5 million people in work by 2024, and in more productive and resilient jobs. The plan sets out the Government's commitment to create the right environment for a jobs-led recovery by helping businesses to become more resilient and agile, and by supporting people to transition to new jobs in growing sectors of the economy. As the Deputy is aware, SMEs account for over two thirds of the total employment and, as such, a strong focus on indigenous SMEs is critical to a jobs-led recovery.
Under the Enterprise Ireland's regional enterprise development fund-----
I thank the Minister of State for his reply. The Minister of State said that 2,702 jobs were created, but that figure relates to the whole south-west region, including counties Kerry and Cork. I am particularly interested in the west Cork figures, because the specific question I asked relates to that area. Unfortunately, the Minister of State does not have figures for 2021, when we are at the latter stages of the year. He stated that 97 jobs were created in 2019 and ten jobs were created in 2020.
We are feeling the pinch in west Cork. I would have preferred a breakdown of the figures including information on jobs created in towns such as Bandon, Clonakilty, Kinsale, Skibbereen, Bantry and Dunmanway. We also must think of the peninsulas. Over the past number of years, these areas have been totally dependent on the farming and fishing industries. Both of those industries are on their knees at this stage. The fishing crisis is unbelievable, but the farming crisis is rumbling on on top of that.
What future has the Government created for people living on peninsulas who are going to suffer quite a lot over the next number of years?
Previously, I was going to reference the Enterprise Ireland fund of €115 million for regional enterprise strategies and plans. It is a good time for the Deputy to raise the issue, because we are about to sign off on the regional enterprise plan for his area. I have no doubt that he made a submission to that with some suggestions as to how we can create jobs and serve the peninsula and the various towns he referenced previously.
I am conscious that in the Deputy's area, the farming and fishing sectors are very strong areas of employment. Farming has had some good years. Yes, there are difficult challenges ahead, but they can also be regarded as opportunities. Both Kerry and Cork LEOs and the enterprise strategies in the area reflect the agrifood opportunities that are there, both in terms of agriculture and fisheries. Naturally, the areas of farming, life sciences, ICT, tourism and hospitality are key areas. We want to work with all interested partners in the region. The best way to implement enterprise supports is through the LEOs in the local areas. However, the regional strategy is key. I chair the strategy for the Deputy's area. We expect to be able to sign off on the plan in the next few weeks, and certainly, before the end of the year. November will be key to doing that. The plan will reflect a number of actions that can be implemented and funded through Enterprise Ireland through our Department in the years ahead to try to protect existing jobs and also increase the opportunities to create new jobs. I am happy to work with all interested partners in the area in doing so.
I look forward to working with the Minister of State on that. However, to create jobs in rural Ireland, we must focus on the seriousness of the situation regarding the collapse of the fishing industry and what looks like the future collapse of the farming industry in this country. We need to look at issues like the provision of broadband in rural areas. Broadband has not come to rural areas such as west Cork. It was promised, five years, six years, seven years ahead. I looked at the local newspaper, theSouthern Star, last week. Johnny Crowley's pub in Inishannon wants to open up a local hub, obviously to keep the pub business going, but also to provide a service to the local community. There is no broadband in Inishannon, which is just down from Cork city. That tells you how many light years we are from reality. I spoke to the Tánaiste this morning about roads in west Cork. There is no vision for the development of roads in west Cork. To create employment in west Cork, there needs to be a proper roads structure. We have a failing roads structure. Neither the southern or northern relief roads or the Inishannon or Bantry bypasses have been included in plans going forward for this year. The provision of public transport is at an all-time low. We need change if we want to create good jobs for west Cork and to put it on the same level playing field as every other constituency in this country.
I can assure the Deputy that all our development agencies have that regional approach. The proof is in the pudding when one looks at the figures for Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland. Over 65% of jobs created by both agencies are created in the regions. Through the enterprise plan, the LEOs also very much focus on their own areas. The Deputy mentioned two issues in particular, that is, rural areas and rural investment. If the Deputy analyses the budget that was allocated to the Minister of Rural and Community Development and her Department over the next four years, he will see that close to €1 billion will be spent on rural areas. I have no doubt that the Deputy and many others will be involved in a number of projects that will drawn down on that funding.
Many parts of rural Ireland have the opportunity to thrive. The remote working strategy that the Tánaiste launched last January will complement that offering and give people the chance to be able to live and work in rural Ireland and many areas that the Deputy represents. I do not share the Deputy's view that agriculture is going to suffer as a result of our future plans. The Deputy will be reluctant to admit that agriculture has thrived in many areas over the last few years. We can build on that with the right approach. I have a more positive approach and outlook than the Deputy. That is his prerogative and choice.
On the issue of rural broadband, what is key is that the contract is signed. There are plans in place to deliver rural broadband into everyone's home and to every business. That is a lot further on than we were a couple of years ago. We all know that for that to happen on the ground will take a number of years. There are negotiations on the way in relation to the remote working strategy launched by the Tánaiste last January to have that contract reviewed. Where we can, we will expedite it. Key for me, and it should be the same for the Deputy, is that the contract is signed, which will result in a spend of over €5 billion in the delivery of broadband in this country. It means that everybody represented by the Deputy will have broadband soon. Yes, we all wish they had it yesterday and will have it tomorrow, but at least they know it is coming. If the Deputy has some great way to expedite it, I would love to hear about it.