Labour will foster the creation of new, sustainable jobs to replace any jobs lost to new technology or climate change. We will develop a strategy to grow and support Ireland’s medium-sized enterprises (50+ employees). Labour will ensure workers’ rights and protections are robust.
Labour will initiate a Maximum Employment Strategy, aimed to raise the employment rate from 69.3% of working age adults to closer to 75%. For example, employment rates are 78.2% in the Netherlands, 77.6% in Sweden and 76.5% in Denmark. Labour will learn from other countries about how they helped more people to enter the labour market, and implement best practice. Ultimately, the best route out of poverty is a good job, and Labour wants to give as many people as possible a real option to work and to improve their lives. Labour’s Childcare Scheme for Working Parents will be part of this solution, as it is more often women who have parenting responsibilities and find it difficult to pursue full-time work (see above).
Labour will create a Future Work Commission and implement a Future Jobs Strategy. The Commission will provide applied research on the jobs that will be available in ten and twenty years from now, given the rapid changes in technology and the need to prevent further climate change. The Future Jobs Strategy will implement the findings of the Commission through upskilling and retraining initiatives, supports for sustainable enterprises and targeted support in regions most badly affected by job losses. This will include the circular economy of recycling and repair, to replace limitless consumption of resources.
Labour will work with representatives of new industries, such as new technology start-ups, to enhance their ability to be successful and to scale up.
Labour will concentrate on a strategy to develop indigenous medium-sized enterprises, employing 50 to 250 people. The aim is to help smaller businesses to scale up to medium-size, to help medium-sized businesses to sustain their size (especially given the export challenges linked to Brexit), and to over time help indigenous enterprises to sustainably employ over 250 workers. Even one medium-sized employer can transform work opportunities in a rural town, and several of them can provide a hub of economic activity. This strategy will involve local colleges and technological universities and it will draw on regional development expertise such as DKIT. The strategy will be driven by a new unit in an existing state agency like the IDA or Enterprise Ireland.
Labour will develop and implement a regional jobs strategy. We want good careers in the towns, suburbs and rural areas that have been left behind. Labour will put more public jobs and direct more investment outside the big cities. Labour will give local authorities the power to introduce a “holiday rate” for new start-ups in less-developed regions to give owners breathing space when opening a new business.
Labour will support the night-time economy by expanding 24-hour public transport services on key routes to improve access to cultural and social spaces within cities and towns. We will review the current licensing system to allow pubs, night clubs and off-licenses to extend their licenses. We will ensure towns and cities retain enough venues for cultural activities.
Labour will fully implement the employment strategy for people with disabilities, and will develop incentives and supports so that more employers take on workers with disabilities. These measures will include grants for work space adjustments and training. Ireland lags behind many European countries in getting people with disabilities into employment. This policy has the potential to immensely improve people’s quality of life and their financial independence, while also reducing poverty and the need for social protection payments. This strategy will include specific measures on neurodiversity.
Labour will expand the number and types of apprenticeships and traineeships that are available. These alternative forms of professional development should be as valued as going to college, which will never be suitable for all young people. Labour will ensure decent pay and conditions for apprentices, and their inclusion in collective sectoral agreements. We will implement wages increments for apprentices and trainees to increase completion rates. For example, Labour will support new apprenticeships and continuous professional development to alleviate the skill shortages in the hospitality sector by creating a professional pathway for prospective apprentices with secure pay and conditions.
Labour will implement a National Flexible Working Strategy, working with trade unions and employers at the National Economic and Social Council. The strategy will develop good practice standards for permitting people to work from home or from other locations. The strategy will pay particular attention to the gender dimension of work-life balance, given that women are still disproportionately the primary caregivers for children. Labour will give full effect to the new Work-Life Balance Directive.
Labour will promote Pooled Group Insurance schemes which will ensure significantly cheaper premiums for businesses, voluntary and community groups who could act together to negotiate lower premiums. The Department of Enterprise will be tasked with supporting and facilitating sectors such as childcare operators or tourism businesses who wish to pool together to seek insurance.
Labour will legislate to ensure that co-operatives, limited-profit companies and social enterprises can access all State supports and grants on the same basis as limited companies.