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Remarks by the Tánaiste at the Launch of the 2014 Action Plan for Jobs

I am delighted to be here today at the launch of the 2014 Action Plan for Jobs here at Wayra Ireland Ltd.  I want to compliment Wayra for the important work they do in providing entrepreneurs with the opportunities they need to get their business ideas off the ground.  

Of course, providing the right environment to allow business to flourish is essential for job creation and is a core objective of our Action Plan for Jobs.  Since we launched the first of these rolling Plans, this Government has successfully worked through a range of critical problems and challenges.  During 2013 we successfully dealt with the famous promissory note, and the negotiation of a new public service pay deal.   We have left the EU/IMF programme, without a precautionary credit line and have been upgraded by Moody’s.  

Our budget position is improving, and we are on course to hit our core target of a 3% deficit by 2015.  Most importantly, we are seeing a sustainable and broadly-based recovery in the economy, and major improvement in the numbers employed.  

When this Government came to office, we were losing 7000 jobs a month – now we are gaining 5000 per month.  The Live Register has fallen for the nineteenth month in a row with the Standardised Unemployment Rate down to 12.3% (I am, of course, conscious that the QNHS 2013 Q4 results will be issued later this morning).  

We can afford at this stage to be far more confident about our prospects than at any time since the crisis began. It is now time to focus on the future, on finishing the job of economic recovery, of creating jobs, and of building a better post-crisis Ireland.  As part of that, we need to focus on supporting the construction industry which has gone from being overblown during the boom to being completely undersized in its wake.  

I think there are three components to what we have to do overall.

Firstly, we must continue with our work to address legacy issues such as

The problem of mortgage arrears

The availability of credit to business,

Reforming the welfare system giving more opportunities to those without jobs,  

Tackling the outstanding deficit in our public finances and meeting the 3% target for 2015.

Secondly, we have to manage the recovery.

We must assist the many people and households who had nothing to do with the creation of the crisis, but had to carry the burden of dealing with it.  

We will do that by creating the right environment for employment through strategies such as The Action Plan for Jobs. The biggest problem still facing households continues to be work – either not having a job, or not having enough work.

We have to manage expectations especially in the areas of public expenditure and wages.

The third set of issues that we have to confront is about the future.  

As we move out of the bailout, we need to articulate a longer term vision of the future.  Our Medium-term Economic Strategy sets out the objective of achieving full employment by 2020 – this is complemented by the Action Plan for Jobs.  

The clear focus across the whole of Government that enabled us exit the bailout must now be brought to bear on the next target – replacing the jobs we have lost, implementing the Action Plan for Jobs, and achieving full and sustainable employment.

We have to develop and maintain our existing trading links, but we have to build new ones and diversify the sources of our income.  That is why we are expanding our networks of Embassies and Consulates overseas, opening eight new missions, to cover new and emerging markets.  

The Review of the Tourism, Trade and Investment Strategy which I launched earlier this week will help to ensure that the resources of the State – both the embassy network and State agencies – are positioned to deliver maximum overall benefit for the economy, meaning good jobs for our people at home.

We also have to take action to get back to a sustainable level of activity in construction, as part of both a short and medium term growth agenda.  It is my view that recovery will not feel like recovery, until the construction sector is restored to something like a normal level of activity.  The commercial property sector in Dublin is moving, but we have cause to be concerned about residential construction. There is growing evidence that the housing market is turning. The total number of houses being built in Ireland is now below the level of long-run demand.

There is potential to create some 12000 extra jobs in construction by tackling this deficit. That is why we are working to finalise a strategy to address the needs of the construction industry which we discussed at a special cabinet meeting today.  We must take steps to create jobs in construction and ensure that we develop a right-sized sector that has long term sustainability. We need to take action now, to prevent problems building up which will return to cause problems in the future.  

The Action Plan for Jobs rightly puts job creation at the centre of policy development across all departments and agencies.  I am pleased to see that this latest Plan has benefited from the inclusion of recommendations that came from the Global Irish Economic Forum which I hosted last October.  

This 2014 Action Plan for Jobs also places a welcome emphasis on measures to strengthen entrepreneurship; winning abroad and manufacturing: national step change.

It is an important part of our ongoing, concerted effort to build a sustainable and equitable recovery for this country.  Because recovery will not be complete until it is experienced throughout society and by all of our people.