Employment has increased significantly, in the Republic of Ireland, since 2012. This is very welcome. While the details and scale of the increase has been open to statistical interpretation it is clear that a recovery in output in most sectors of the economy has spilled over into job creation (See Chart 1 below). Unemployment, as estimated on the basis of the ‘standardised unemployment rate’ is now just under 10% of the workforce – a significant psychological threshold last breached in mid-1997 during the last Irish bust/boom of the 1980’s/early 1990s.
There is a view shared widely, North and South, that (i) the overall contribution of indigenous (or native) enterprises is underdeveloped, (ii) a large-scale reliance on foreign direct investment (especially in the case of the South), while welcome in itself, is not a sustainable long-term strategy, and (iii) something needs to be done about this even if it will take years to see the fruits of a long-term strategy. The recent Annual Donal Nevin lecture given by Professor Mariana Mazzucato marked an important contribution to a debate that needs to happen. Her message – based on many years of international empirical research and well summarised in her recent best-selling book, The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs Private Sector Myths – is that all actors including the state and its various agencies have an innovative role to play in generating new products and services to transform economies and societies.
This has implications not only for large countries with large-scale military budgets such as the USA where government research in research and development has been exceptionally important to much of what we take for granted in today’s world from smartphones to medical devices. A small open economy such as both parts of Ireland (and the island as a whole) can learn from what regions and countries have been doing over many decades. By focussing on areas of strategic investment and cooperation many regions have seen the rise of new global enterprises and general purpose technologies which have transformed their position in the world.
There are many measures examining differences in various socio-economic characteristics among men and women. In general, women are better educated, healthier, live longer but earn less – factors which in themselves point towards gaps in societal equality for both sexes.
When Adam Smith wrote ‘The Wealth of Nations’ in 1776 wealth consisted mainly of land, housing and other treasures. While comprehensive data are hard to come by, Thomas Piketty in his book, Capital in the 21 st Century, managed to track the main trends and composition of wealth in a number of large countries such as Britain, France and Germany. Here in Ireland discussion of wealth has been an under-researched and under-reported area until comparatively recent times.
The third annual NERI labour market conference was held on 1 May in Riddel Hall, Queen's University Belfast. The event was held in conjunction with the Queen's Management School and featured presentations on a wide range of areas. Details on the topics covered, including links to the slides, are available below. All at the NERI would like to thank everyone who attended the conference, particularly those who gave a presentation. The conference will be held south of the border next year and we will keep you up to date with the arrangements.
Slides from a number of presentations are exluded at the presenters' request.
The current focus on low pay and precarious work practices has set the scene for the work of the recently formed Low Pay Commission in the Republic of Ireland. One aspect of their work will be to look at the number of individuals trapped in low pay, many of whom are dependent on the social protection system to underpin their ability to make ends meet.
The Agreement reached by Northern Ireland's political parties at Stormont House last year covered many topics from parades and the past to political reform and shared education. The agreement has now seemingly come unstuck over the issue of welfare reform. Welfare reform was arguably the most intractable of issues supposedly dealt with by the Stormont House Agreement and the quasi-collapse of the deal still threatens to derail Northern Ireland's budget for 2015/16. That budget, if implemented would be the last instalment of austerity from the current UK government.
The late Robin Williams once declared that spring is nature’s way of saying ‘let’s party’. The arrival of the ‘Spring Economic Statement’ last week had a seasonal dimension to it: a heightened expectation in advance, a very predictable outcome, a dash of hope and sunshine but some lingering chills and showers. The Statement – although lengthy and accompanied by the normal 60-page ‘Stability Programme Update’ – has one very noticeable and arguably welcome feature – its simplicity of message. The Statement can be summed up as follows:
Ireland set up a Low Pay Commission earlier this year with a mandate to (amongst other things) recommend to government on an annual basis on appropriate changes to the rate set for the National Minimum Wage (NMW).