Nat O'Connor: Unemployed decreased by 6,600 (seasonally adjusted) if you compare October 2010 figures with those of September 2010. Yet, October’s figures are an increase of 17,400 (also seasonally adjusted) from 2009. (CSO source here). Stablising or not, it clearly remains essential to bring as many ideas as possible on the table to maximise job creation.
The Government has welcomed the fall in unemployment, calling it signs of a “stabilising economy”, however they recognise the ongoing jobs challenge.
“Minister Ó Cuív referred to number of key strategic initiatives to create new jobs and to get people back to work; the five-year integrated plan for trade, tourism and investment, aimed at generating 300,000 jobs and boosting exports by one third, and the €500 million Innovation Fund-Ireland which aims to draw top venture capitalists to Ireland.”
The Government is also welcoming a decline in redundancies.
Labour spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade and Employment Willie Penrose has provided a longer list of measures to “generate the conditions where job creation can flourish”.
- Using €2 billion from the pension reserve fund to establish a strategic investment bank to get credit to the SME sector and to invest in infrastructure;
- Targetting clean technology, food, tourism, cultural and creative industries for job creation;
- Banning of upward only rent reviews;
- Reforming the PRSI exemption scheme to incentivise employers to take on extra staff;
- Creating 20,000 places on a six-month placement scheme in both the public and private sector;
- Reducing the qualifying period for Back to Education and Back to Work Enterprise Allowance to three months, and allow far greater access to post-graduate courses;
- Increasing the Back to Education Initiative by 6,000 places;
- Lifting the cap on VEC further education places and create an additional 10,000 places;
- Expanding VTOS by 20%. Create one thousand extra places for young jobseekers;
- Creating a skills exchange in VECs, FAS training Colleges, and Institutes of Technology;
- Providing more support services for jobseekers through the amalgamation of FAS employment services with the Department of Social Protection, and through integration with other key training and education agencies.
Labour's proposals point towards expanding or reforming existing schemes. These are policies that can be rolled out quickly, which is vital. The question of eliminating all remaining 'upward only' rent contracts is also worth serious consideration.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael have proposals under the heading of Getting Ireland Working Again.
- Immediately cut taxes on jobs and struggling sectors of the economy;
- Start a new National Recovery Bank to ease credit conditions for families and small businesses;
- Create 105,000 jobs through an €18 billion upgrading of water, broadband and energy, paid for in part by selling assets that the State no longer needs (i.e. their NewERA plan);
- Use the social welfare budget to expand second chance education, training and internship opportunities;
- Help small businesses, exporters and inward investors by forcing down high prices for rent, electricity, transport and professional services.
Fine Gael add one specific policy to the jobs debate: doubling Ireland’s sector that provides education to international students. This is perhaps a useful reminder that job creation requires a focus on the ‘micro’ economy; industry-by-industry, sub-sector-by-sub-sector.
It is important to note deep differences underlying the Labour and Fine Gael approaches. Labour want to use the NPRF to get credit to SMEs. They also call for higher taxes. And they focus on reforming the links between the welfare system and employment support services. Whereas Fine Gael are talking about tax cuts, and their policy on social welfare is more menacing, where they state: "instead of encouraging idleness, dependency and poverty for younger unemployed people, we would use the social welfare budget to expand second chance education, training and internship opportunities." This suggests cutting welfare rates to 'incentivise' employment - regardless of the hardship or the deflationary decrease in aggregate demand in the economy it would cause.