Tánaiste's Statement at Launch of Action Plan for Jobs
Tánaiste's Statement at Launch of Action Plan for Jobs
Ladies and Gentlemen
Thank you for being here today at the launch of the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs.
Creating jobs and reducing unemployment is the Government’s number one priority.
More than any other economic or social problem, when we talk about unemployment or joblessness, it is all too easy to get wrapped up in statistics. But joblessness is not about numbers – its about people. People and their families, who have to struggle on a daily basis – with financial problems, with frustration, with boredom. Its about young people who have to leave the country of their birth to find work, and the parents and grandparents who are left behind with a gap in their lives. Unemployment is about loss – loss of talent, loss of opportunity – loss of people. More than anything else, if we are to make our way out of this economic crisis, then we have to create jobs.
The difficult decisions that we have taken and continue to take in respect of budgets and banking, are all aimed at bringing about the type of financial and economic stability that we need to restore our economy to growth, and to create more and better jobs.
The action plan we are publishing today demonstrates that job creation is not about one big idea, or one particular policy, it is about working everyday, in every area of Government, to put job creation first.
If we are to get the Irish economy moving again, then there are two main fronts on which we have to work – restoring confidence in the domestic economy, and expanding our exports. In the jobs initiative, and again in the budget, we have taken a series of measures aimed at boosting the domestic economy. We have brought in a reduced rate of VAT for the Tourist sector, and we have channelled resources into areas where public investment would be most employment intensive.
In the Budget, we brought forward a series of measures, including important initiatives aimed at steering the property market back to a more normal level of activity.
Today, our focus is on the enterprise agenda – on how Government can do more to assist businesses to get started and to grow. The seven principle areas for action reflect a fresh approach to tackling problems which have been a feature of the Irish economy going back to the 1980s. How to build on our success in attracting Foreign Investment, while also building a stronger indigenous sector. How to develop a strong entrepreneurial culture that translates ideas into small companies, and then grows small companies into large ones.
Foreign Direct Investment is, and will continue to be, key to the success of the Irish economy. But we also have to work to deepen the impact of FDI. We need to do more to encourage indigenous industry – assisting start-ups, but also scale-ups. We need more small and medium sized companies to become medium and large companies, because that is how we can most readily increase employment.
The jobs crisis is our most pressing economic problem, but we have to think about employment creation in the short and the medium-term. We have to think about how a small open economy such as Ireland positions itself in the global trading system. We have just come through a construction bubble, which sucked in people and resources and became a major driver of the economy.
Now, we have to work to wean the economy off its dependence on construction, and return to the export-led expansion of the 1980s. At the same time, we also have to diversify our industrial base and our markets. One of our great saving graces during the crisis, for example, has been our strength in high tech sectors such as pharmaceuticals, which has weathered the storm better than most. As we build for the future, we have to make sure that we are never again as exposed to a single industrial sector, or over-reliant on any one market.
One of the clearest points coming out of the meetings convened by President Clinton last week, was that Ireland has the potential to be far more global in its reach. Not just a hub for trading with Europe, but also for reaching into emerging economies.
President Clinton spoke movingly of Ireland’s relationship with Africa, which he has experienced first hand, and which he saw as a major economic opportunity. Some of the world’s fastest growing economies are in Africa, and Ireland has a unique relationship and a unique reach into that continent. Over time, we can translate that opportunity into jobs, by building up our trading relationships. This is an important feature of our Africa Strategy that I launched last year.
The centre of gravity in global trade is shifting, and Ireland has to avail of the opportunities that presents in places like China, India, Russia, and indeed in Africa.
As Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, working with my colleague, Minister of State Costello, I am determined to drive greater penetration of markets in emerging economies.
At the same time, we are also embarked on important reforms at home. We will shortly be launching Pathways to Work, which sets out the major reforms already being undertaken by Minister’s Burton and Quinn in the area of education and training. It is absolutely vital that, as jobs are created in the economy, people who are now unemployed have the skills and training to avail of them. That means a fundamental re-orientation of the way in which we engage with and offer opportunities to, people who are unemployed.
Of course, there are limits to what we can do. What this document reflects is our Government’s determination to work at the problem on every possible front, day in, day out. There are no easy solutions, but we are determined to leave no stone unturned.