DESPITE a number of significant job announcements, the latest returns from the Central Statistics Office show there was no improvement in employment levels in the Mid West region over the past year.
The CSO figures show that Limerick, Clare and North Tipperary had the lowest employment growth of all regions, except the border area where there was a decline in the number of people at work.
Asked if he was concerned about the lack of jobs growth, Minister of State Pat Breen said, “Of course, that’s why it’s really important that we are innovative in the way we find solutions to create more jobs.”
“Government must not get complacent when it comes to job creation for the region and as long as I am in the department of business and enterprise, I will remain focused in ensuring that the mid-west is very much part of job creation and that we encourage indigenous companies in particular.”
Although the unemployment rate in the Mid West dropped from 8.2 per cent in the third quarter of 2017, to 7.2 per cent in the same quarter of 2018, the CSO figures show the number of people in the labour force has also declined.
Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan said targeted action is required from Government in parts of Limerick:
“Limerick has a particular problem with unemployment black spots where the unemployment rate is much higher than the national average.
“We need targeted action to eliminate these black spots, and give people in these areas employment opportunities.”
However, Minister Breen said he was very confident the mid-west was going to grow.
“It’s now one of the fastest growing regions in the country. It’s becoming a centre of excellence for the life-science area. Edwards Lifescience will be opening their plant here in Limerick next March with 600 new jobs.
“You have Jaguar Land Rover just up the road with 200 jobs and I think there’s more going to happen here in the future as well.
“We’ve had lots of job announcements in recent times, and I believe we will have more in the future as well. We can’t be complacent, and that’s why it’s really important that we ensure that the regions continue to grow.”
However, there needs to be a broader element to that growth and Deputy Quinlivan believes the Government are not adequately supporting those workers who are in employment.
“The government are great at cutting ribbons at fancy jobs announcements, but they are extremely reluctant to address some of the key issues workers are facing,” he said.
“Although the number of people in employment has risen substantially, which is great news and it is a testament to the resilience of Irish businesses, major problems remain, in particular, the growth of precarious employment practices across the state.”
He said “bogus self-employment” means workers are left without certainty of hours and “are not protected by some key employment legislation”.
When questioned about the CSO employment figures by Limerick Labour Party TD Jan O’Sullivan, Employment Minister Heather Humphreys said the mid-west was “one of the best performing areas in collaborating, attracting investment and jobs.”
She said from the first quarter of 2015 to the latest figures in 2018, 18,800 jobs were created in the midwest region.
While she acknowledged that “there have been significant improvements since the first quarter of 2015”, Deputy O’Sullivan said, “My concern is that the improvement has apparently stopped. We need to take action now to ensure employment will continue to grow.”