Enterprise, Trade and Employment | Update on the Irish manufacturing and services sectors
To ask the Minister for Enterprise; Trade and Employment the degree to which the future for Irish manufacturing and services sectors remains positive or is likely to come under threat from any particular area; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Irish manufacturing and services sectors have performed strongly and have successfully weathered a number of shocks in recent years including Brexit, COVID-19, and the disruption caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. According to the latest Central Statistics Office’s data, employment levels reached 2.55 million in Q3 2022. We now have more people employed in our country than ever before, while the monthly unemployment rate stands at just 4.4%. Irish exports also continue to perform well with goods exports increasing 19.3% in the first three quarters of 2022 compared to the first three quarters of 2021 while services exports increased 10.2% over the same period.
Building on this strong performance and improving Ireland’s competitiveness position is a key economic priority for Government. As a small, open economy, Ireland is particularly vulnerable to external shocks. Consequently, we continuously strive for improvement, so that we remain a highly competitive economy.
As part of Project Ireland 2040, the National Development Plan sets out the Government’s over-arching investment strategy and budget for the period 2021-2030. It is an ambitious plan with significant public investment across all sectors and regions of Ireland which will improve our resilience to future economic shocks.
As part of the National Development Plan, the Government has committed to an investment package of €165 billion over the years 2021-2030. In Budget 2023, the Government provided €12.4 billion for capital spending on vital infrastructure which will help reduce supplyside bottlenecks and boost the productive capacity of the economy. This will see continued growth in investment across housing, health, and transport, as well as a major step-up in climate related investment.
The recently published White Paper on Enterprise recognises in particular two major global transformations that are currently underway: the move towards a climate-neutral society by 2050, with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions; and the digitalisation of the economy. Government will work to support businesses in the manufacturing and services sector in reducing their reliance on fossil fuels and improve their energy efficiency in the coming years through a range of initiatives, including grants and loans. While the transition to a net zero economy will not be easy, it also presents incredible opportunities for Ireland, specifically in the area of renewable energy production. Policy will also ensure Ireland is at the forefront of the digital manufacturing, managing and coordinating resources to deliver on the aspiration of the 2020 Industry 4.0 Strategy to become a world leading hub at the frontier of Advanced Manufacturing.
The changing global environment requires a flexible, agile approach, and our FDI policy will evolve to take advantage of the new opportunities this transformation will bring, whilst also providing continuity as an investment destination. We will ensure our domestic manufacturing and services sectors are supported in terms of resiliency and opportunity to grow and scale. We will focus our efforts on developing an integrated system wide approach to create an ecosystem that accelerates start-up growth and scaling, that includes access to finance; investments in R&D and innovation; access to skills; and an appropriate regulatory environment as well as a tax system that encourages investment in start-ups and scaling.
The steps taken by the Government in recent months along with the measures outlined in the Government’s National Development Plan and White Paper on Enterprise 2022-2030 means we can be optimistic about maintaining and improving the competitiveness of the Irish economy in the long term.
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