No shortage of plans but jobs are still thin on the ground
ANALYSIS:In less than two years the Government has announced three separate job plans. One has promised 100,000 extra jobs by 2016; the other two each claimed 13,000 new jobs.
However, assessing the number of actual jobs created is notoriously difficult. The Government will point to “wins” in tourism, where 6,000 new jobs have been created. There are also the recent Enterprise Ireland and Industrial Development Authority annual figures which collectively show a net gain of more than 10,000 new jobs in 2012.
But the CSO’s National Household Quarterly Survey show a marginal (0.2 per cent) decrease in the number working at the end of quarter 3 in 2012, falling 4,300 to 1.841 million.
So as the Cabinet meets today to discuss its Jobs Action Plan for 2013, it is against the background of being further away from its goal of 100,000 extra jobs in the Irish economy by 2016, than it was before it started its major plan in 2012.
Even before forming a Government, both Coalition parties had made promises of a “jobs budget” within the first 100 days. What materialised in May of 2011 was a slightly lesser animal – a jobs initiative.
The plan, unveiled by Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, was still ambitious, with a budget of €2 billion over four years, funded from a raid on private pension funds. He introduced a number of stimuli specifically geared towards tourism. It included a lowering of VAT to 9 per cent targeted at food, hotel, holiday, entertainment and sporting facilities. Air travel tax was also to be reduced if airline companies could show how they would increase passenger numbers.
However, the Minister and the airline industry didn’t see eye-to-eye on this and it remained at €2 per head. There was also a reduction of employer PRSI to encourage job creation. The internship scheme, JobsBridge, was also set up.
So what bang did the taxpayers get for their buck? The most comprehensive analysis is contained in an appendix to the medium-term fiscal statement in November, which examined the VAT reductions in the tourism sector, which cost €150 million per year.The study showed prices fell marginally once VAT was cut. It showed jobs in the sector increased by 6,200 but could not say whether all were attributable to this change.
The second specific initiative was the jobs stimulus plan announced by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin in July 2012. It committed €2.25 billion to roads, schools and primary health centres. It also claimed up to 13,000 jobs would be created. The third big initiative was the Jobs Action Plan for 2012 announced last January. It set out 270 distinct actions across all 15 Government departments and State agencies. They ranged from major (advanced broadband targets, a national waste strategy, the Credit Guarantee Bill, cloud computing, a microfinance fund) to minor (“leverage the potential for language and roots tourism”).
While it was clear there was an element of box-ticking, the argument made by Bruton was that its specific targeted nature would address what commentator Eddie Molloy has described as “implementation deficit disorder”.
An extra 100,000 jobs were promised: 20,000 in manufacturing, 30,000 in international traded services, with another 50,000 spin-off jobs.
There’s still four full years to go and it is a long-term strategy but its goals are still a long way off.