#RealityCheck: What happened to the Five Point Plan in relation to jobs?

Newstalk Breakfast analyse the Government's promises

#RealityCheck: What happened to the Five Point Plan in relation to jobs?

Left to right: Jobs Minister Richard Bruton, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tanaiste Joan Burton with Minister of State with Special Responsibility for Small Business, Gerald Nash | Image: Photocall

You may remember that famous Fine Gael five point plan which was going to rescue the country.

On Monday we reviewed the Government’s handling of the budget, yesterday it was health and today, we turn out attention to jobs.

What the Five Point Plan promised

To get Ireland working we need jobs. Over the next four years, Fine Gael will invest an extra €7bn in new energy, water, broadband and telecoms infrastructure to generate on average 20,000 jobs each year. We will cut employers PRSI, abolish the airport departure tax and change the welfare system to encourage job creation.

What the programme for Government promised:

  • Provide resources for an additional 15,000 places in training, work experience and educational opportunities for those who are out of work
  • Cut the 13.5% rate of VAT to 12% up to end 2013
  • Halve the lower 8.5% rate of PRSI up to end 2013 on jobs paying up to *356 per week
  • Reverse the cut in the minimum wage
  • Abolish the Travel Tax as part of a deal with airlines to restore lost routes
  • Implement a number of sectoral initiatives in areas that will create employment in the domestic economy
  • Initiate a long-term strategy to develop new markets in emerging economies
  • Secure additional resources for the national housing energy retrofitting plan, as part of plans to phase out subsidies in this area by 2014
  • Expand eligibility for the back to education allowance
  • Accelerate capital works that are ‘shovel ready’ and labour intensive including schools and secondary roads.

From the Action Plan for Jobs 2016:

Five years ago unemployment was above 15 per cent. It is now under nine per cent for the first time since 2008. We have more than exceeded the targets we set ourselves in the first Action Plan for Jobs when we aimed to add 100,000 jobs by 2016.

With more than 135,000 additional jobs in place, we are now committed to working to ensure that we have 2.1 million people in employment in this country by 2018, two years ahead of schedule. In 2016 alone, we are aiming to add 50,000 jobs - another step in the journey towards full employment in this country.

As well as raising our sights, as the process has evolved we have also widened our focus. We know how some parts of the country have been slower than others to see the fruits of recovery.

That is why a particular focus for this year is to stimulate regional growth, delivering on the wide range of Government initiatives in place to realise the potential of each region, chief among them our new Regional Action Plans for Jobs.

We will be driving them forward in 2016 with the goal of having up to an additional 15 per cent at work in each region by 2020, and to ensure the unemployment rate is within one per cent of the State average.

What's the Reality?

Fergal O’Brien, Director of Policy with IBEC and James Wickham from the left wing think tank TASC spoke to Newstalk Breakfast in order to analyse the plan.

Jobs

Mr Wickham stated: "There are certainly more jobs, that's obvious. My concern would be about the quality of some of those jobs. It's important to remember that Ireland has one of the highest proportion of people in low pay across the EU and I think once you remember that it puts a question mark about the idea that any job is a good job.

"The minimum wage is an hourly minimum. It's probably more important to start thinking of low pay, low earnings as a whole.

"The key thing that could have been done more of is improving the conditions of people on very low earnings."

Fergal O’Brien added: "If you look at the situation objectively, I think you would have to conclude that this Government has exceeded all expectations in terms of the economy has performed and the degree to which we have put people back to work.

"If you were to stand back on that score card, you would have to say we have outperformed all expectations."

Jobbridge

Mr Wickham said: "In principle I think Jobbridge was a very good idea. I think... there are clearly problems that it was being used by some employers as low wage."

And despite the wide range of topics looked at by our panel, there was one issue many listeners wanted to talk about - the effects of emigration on Ireland's unemployment numbers.

As Mr Wickham put it:"If you look at the demgraphic profile of Ireland, it looks as if there's been a war.. and of course it affects the baseline from which you measure unemployment."

But he added: "One of the things we do right about emigration, oddly enough, is we make sure that people who are welcome to come back ... if you've worked abroad you are mroe likely to get a good wage at home."

Mr O'Brien responded: "Of course we've lost far too many people to emigration, and as we look forward to the next five years that is the real challenge."

Attracting returning emigrants

Mr. O'Brien said: "We need real reform of our tax system as well. You've got a lot of people in UK, Asutralia and Canada saying it doesn't make economic sense to come back to Ireland - rent is too high, they can't afford to get the house."

Equality of recovery

Mr O'Brien said: "History has always shown us in our recessiojns that the Dublin economy will come back first and the regions will follow. This time that lag has been greater because of the severity of the recession we had.

"The economy inside the M50 was probably already recovering by the time the Troika got here in 2010. It has taken longer it is beginning to happen, we can see it in the last 18 months.

"Some of the business investmat that is happening in the regions is happening, it is picking up (but) that gap is still there."

Investment in regional infrastrucutre - such as broadband - was critical to spreading recovery around the country, Mr O'Brien added.

Mr Wickham added: "I think the point about investment is crucial. One of the things that has previously happened is investment has been scattered around the country. If you want regional development one of the thigns you have to do is have a cler regional policy which does involve concentrating investment and development in certain palces, rather than just giving a sweetie to everybody."

On Thursday morning Breakfast look at reform of public services

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