OECD praises jobs plan but warns over youth unemployment

Economic organisation criticises JobBridge scheme as ‘too large and expensive’

Minister for Enterprise Richard Bruton with Martin Shanahan, chief executive, Fórfas, and Yves Lenterme of the OECD. Photograph: Shane O’Neill/ Fennells

Minister for Enterprise Richard Bruton with Martin Shanahan, chief executive, Fórfas, and Yves Lenterme of the OECD. Photograph: Shane O’Neill/ Fennells

 

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has endorsed the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs, but criticised its governance and oversight procedures while also warning that more attention is need on tackling youth unemployment.

The OECD yesterday published a review of the Government’s annual set-piece employment strategy, which is overseen by Richard Bruton, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

Long-term target
The report said Ireland is “well on track” to achieve the interim action plan target of 100,000 new jobs by 2016, while the longer-term target of 2.1 million employed by 2020 looks “firmly within grasp”.

It also praised the Government’s strategy to “strengthen linkages” between indigenous smaller enterprises and the high number of foreign multinationals operating here. But the review also said the Government needed to pay more attention to the twin issues of youth and long-term unemployment, which it said were far too high.

The report highlighted the 26 per cent level of joblessness among members of the workforce aged under 24.

“Unless more is done to help the long-term unemployed find jobs, there is a risk that some of the cyclical increase in unemployment may become structural,” the report said. It said that large numbers of new jobs would not, on their own, solve the problem unless younger and long-term unemployed people are sufficiently trained and motivated to take those jobs.

“Creating jobs may not be sufficient to fully absorb the rise in long-term unemployment that took place following the crisis. The [action plan] must . . . be buttressed by strong labour activation policies,” it said. The report said the surge in job losses following the onset of the financial crisis “overwhelmed Ireland’s fragmented system for placements and training programmes”. It said JobBridge, the State-backed national work experience scheme, is too “large and expensive” and strongly criticised it for not being targeted “specifically at the most disadvantaged” groups.

‘Chronic unemployment’
“This may be acceptable at a time of chronic unemployment starts to decline such efforts should be more closely targeted on vulnerable groups,” it said.

It also warned that JobBridge must avoid “lock-in effects”by encouraging jobseekers to completely abandon their hunt for employment in order to take part in the scheme. The OECD also suggested that people should be allowed to take part in JobBridge on a part-time basis. The organisation also said that oversight of the action plan needs to be overhauled.

Policy for the plan is set by a Cabinet committee that includes Mr Bruton, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, and a number of other Ministers. Its progress is marked on a quarterly basis by a committee of several departments.