Unemployed are 'ill-equipped' to work in areas of future job growth
Many of Ireland's unemployed workers are "ill-equipped" to work in the sectors most likely to experience employment growth as the economy recovers, the National Competitiveness Council (NCC) has warned.
The council published a report yesterday as part of the Government's Action Plan for Jobs initiative.
The NCC, which is chaired by former senior civil servant Don Thornhill, has made a number of key recommendations -- from improving court procedures to ensuring social welfare supports don't act as a disincentive for people to take up part-time work -- in order to boost competitiveness and spark job growth.
But it said that despite signs of improvement in the labour market, the process of reducing unemployment would be gradual.
"While demand remains relatively weak, the reality is that many unemployed workers are ill-equipped to work in those sectors most likely to experience employment growth," cautioned the NCC. It pointed to sectors such as IT, export industries and occupations that require combinations of multilingual and technical skills.
NCC members include Google Ireland boss John Herlihy; Sean O'Driscoll, the chief executive of one of Ireland's biggest private companies, Glen Dimplex; Louise Phelan, the head of PayPal's Irish operations; and Liam Casey, the founder of PCH International, which makes accessories for firms such as Apple.
The council said Ireland needed to bolster its export growth by focusing on national competitiveness.
"We must pursue high-growth markets, increase our market share with our existing trading partners and ensure we are well-placed to take advantage of the upswing in demand when it occurs," it said.
"To do this, we must continue to take steps to ensure Ireland is an open, cost-effective, productive economy."
The NCC has called for a revamp of the apprenticeship model and also for steps to be taken to ensure the construction sector returns to a sustainable level of activity.
"After a prolonged period of unsustainable growth, the Irish construction sector has contracted to an unsustainably low level of output," the council warned.
"The longer this continues, the greater the risk of losing valuable construction expertise and investment to competing locations."
It added: "It is imperative that construction returns to a sustainable growth path so that it can make an optimal contribution to economic recovery and support other sectors in their contribution."
The NCC has also told the Government that it should evaluate the possibility of introducing a site value tax for commercial property, which it envisages could replace the existing system of commercial rates.
"The commercial rates system does nothing to encourage the efficient use and development of vacant commercial land," said the NCC. "In the long term, the provision of sustainable sources of income for local authorities is essential."
Continuing support for entrepreneurs is also needed from the Government, said the NCC. It said that the number of people setting up businesses is now at a historically low level.