Tuesday, 16 November 2004
Dáil Eireann Debate
77. Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the policies he intends pursuing to ensure the achievement of the employment participation targets set out in Lisbon Agenda as signed by the Lisbon European Council. [28467/04]
Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Mr. Martin): The Lisbon Agenda set the EU an overall employment rate target of 70% by 2010, with specific targets of 60% and 50%, respectively, for female and older workers. The targets set at Lisbon in 2000 were challenging at a time when the EU was enjoying GDP growth and falling unemployment. Notwithstanding the global economic downturn, Ireland has made steady progress towards achieving these targets.
The overall employment, female employment and older workers employment rates for Ireland in 1999 — pre-Lisbon — were 63.3%, 52% and 43.7%, respectively. In 2003, these rates had improved to 65.4%, 55.8% and 49%, respectively, and exceeded the average rates across the 25 member states of the EU. The employment in Europe 2004 report was recently published by the European Commission and predicts that Ireland is likely to reach all three targets by 2010.
The most recent employment figures for Ireland indicate that there are 1,836,200 persons in employment, which is an increase of 42,800 or 2.4% in the year. Some 84,200 persons are unemployed, giving a current unemployment rate of 4.4% and a long-term unemployment rate of 1.4%. Ireland’s unemployment rate is relatively low, particularly when compared with the EU average of around 9%.
The progress made in attaining the Lisbon targets are due to policies already adopted by the Government and these policies continue to be pursued. In particular, current policies are focused on responding to country specific recommendations that were endorsed by the European Council in June, having taken account of the recommendations of the employment task force report.
The pursuance of the goals of increased competitiveness, a knowledge-based economy and more and better jobs is reliant on a number of factors and mobilising of all sources of labour supply is crucial to this. Continuing employment growth is dependant on active labour market programmes to increase activtion of the unemployed and reduce the unemployment rate, FÁS engagement with all people on the live register for more than six months, investment in training to facilitate both the unemployed and employees to participate in lifelong learning, reviewing social security-taxation and improving flexible working arrangements to encourage participation of females and older workers in the workforce.
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