Building For Employment

The Government is coming under pressure to respond to the unexpected surge of redundancies in the high-technology sector

The Government is coming under pressure to respond to the unexpected surge of redundancies in the high-technology sector. Politicians are never slow to claim the credit for creating jobs when some major project arrives. So, when jobs are lost, they are expected to do something about it. Unfortunately, there is a limit to what the Government can do in the short term. The losses highlight the fact that jobs growth cannot be taken for granted, and in this context, there is much that policy-makers need to address.

Behind all the business jargon, one fact is clear - demand for the products of the information technology and communications sectors has fallen sharply. And with a sharp slowdown in the US economy, it was perhaps inevitable that there would be significant job losses here.

The scale and speed of redundancies in recent weeks has been striking. Most of the companies involved supplied valuable jobs over a lengthy period. But this will have done little to offset the shock to those who have lost their jobs. Some will quickly find new employment, but others now face considerable uncertainty and difficulties.

The State agencies should do all they can to help those affected. Some will need to be retrained, while others will need the support of the welfare system as they search for new careers. It is important that IDA Ireland strives to retain the highest number of jobs and to encourage firms to move from basic assembly work to higher value activity.


Mr Sean Dorgan, the IDA chief executive, maintains that what we are seeing in the technology sector is a "slowdown, not a meltdown." This is correct, but it is a serious slowdown and, as he points out, it is now likely to go on well into next year. Yet it is important to remember that many other sectors continue to grow - albeit more slowly because of the international slowdown - that unemployment remains low and that the economy continues to expand.

The Government's industrial policy needs to go beyond the establishment of local task-forces to seek replacement jobs. The key issue is the rapid development of our infrastructure.

It is extraordinary that the operators of the national electricity grid now question whether it can supply any further significant industries. The spread of broadband technology across the State is delayed. And planned investment in railways, roads and airport links, under the National Development Plan, continues to proceed slowly - often delayed by planning hold-ups.

These are the kinds of issues which the Government must address to lay the foundation for further jobs growth, balanced across the State and to help the IDA as it seeks to attract and develop high-value industries.