Tuesday, 16 June 2020
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
1035. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the position regarding the terms of reference, membership and meetings held to date of the labour market council; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11594/20]
1038. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the way in which the membership of the labour market council is determined; if there is a public call for expressions of interest to join the council; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11601/20]
1040. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the labour market council will engage in and provide opportunities for public consultation on policy matters before providing advice to Government; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11644/20]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 1035, 1037, 1038 and 1040 together.
I convened the Labour Market Advisory Council earlier this year at a time when the economic landscape and outlook was very different to the conditions we are facing today. The key challenge facing my Department and the Intreo Service at that time was how to increase participation rates in an economy that was at full employment, as generally understood. Against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant disruption to Ireland’s labour market, the focus has turned to implementing an economic recovery agenda.
The Labour Market Advisory Council is an advisory body to my Department and the Government and its membership brings together a disparate group of members from industry, academia, business and civil society.
I set the Terms of Reference and before finalising them received some valuable input from Council members. The overarching objective of these terms of reference is to provide advice to the Department and Government on the efficient operation of the labour market with a particular view to increasing participation rates, minimising unemployment levels and reducing average unemployment durations. The Council will have regard to UN Sustainable Development Goal 8 which promotes ‘sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all’.
The Advisory Council has met on three occasions to date (24 April, 8 May and 22 May) with senior officials from my Department and across Government attending on an Ex-Officio basis. On occasion, I envisage that the Council may invite a representative body or expert to discuss issues pertinent to the Council’s work programme.
The first task assigned to the Advisory Council was to develop, as a matter of urgency, proposals for actions to tackle the labour market challenges arising as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. A Policy Paper, prepared by the Council in response to this mandate, outlines a series of recommendations for public policy and labour market responses needed to tackle the labour market challenges arising as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. This Paper is currently being considered. The Advisory Council has also recently published a Working Paper examining the initial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Irish labour market.
Building and sustaining skills in the labour force will require a key focus as the labour market recovers, with a particular emphasis on skills which will be in demand. Furthermore, consideration must be given to how best to retain and rehire skilled labour and resume operations. The Council will be an important vehicle in providing guidance on these issues and in assisting with the development of public policy responses that will support labour market recovery and assist us to retrain and re-employ all those whose employment has been disrupted by the pandemic.
The Council will also provide advice and guidance on the successor employment services strategy to replace Pathways to Work, covering the period 2020-2025. Work is underway within my Department on the revised strategy to ensure that positive labour market outcomes are achievable for all groups in society and that the Irish labour force is well positioned to respond to both on-going and future economic challenges.
The Council recognises that there are a range of further challenges facing Ireland’s labour market. These include fast-tracking digital transformation in response to the Covid-19 crisis; the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on particular cohorts of the labour market including young people, women, and ethnic minorities; the challenges posed to many vulnerable sectors and regions by Brexit; climate change; population ageing; ensuring the availability of decent work for all – in particular for groups with low participation rates – and the implications of the changing world of work. It is proposed to deal with these topics in future Policy Papers.
 See LMAC Webpage: www.gov.ie/en/publication/656a27-labour-market-advisory-council/.