We are setting an ambitious target of having 2.2 million people at work by 2020

13 January 2016

Speaking at the Pathways to Work 2016-2020 Launch

I’d like to welcome you all to this launch of the Pathways to Work 2016-2020 strategy.

I’d particularly like to thank Diageo for hosting this event.

My Department has worked closely with Diageo on their ‘Learning for Life’ programme, which equips young people to build careers in the hospitality industry.

This innovative programme is an example of what I expect the next Pathways to Work to achieve.

We’ll shortly pass through the barrier of having 2 million people at work, unimaginable in the long winter caused by Fianna Fail’s reckless economic management.

But we want to go much further than that, and Pathways will be central to this.

As Labour Leader, I’ve always believed that secure and fairly paid work is the best protection against poverty.

It’s also the best way of ensuring people share in renewed prosperity.

The Labour Party will continue to stand up for working people.

So we are setting an ambitious target of having 2.2 million people at work by 2020.

And the fact we can set that target shows we’ve come a long way.

My Department first launched Pathways to Work in 2012, when unemployment peaked at 15.1%.

The goal was simple: to help those on the Live Register return to work, training or education.

Behind the scenes, Pathways was responsible for arguably the largest reform in the public service in a generation.

The public employment services were completely overhauled.

New Intreo Centres were established across the country so that jobseekers could get their income and employment supports in the one place for the first time.

This involved the merger of the community welfare service, Department staff and FAS staff, and the doubling of dedicated caseworkers to work with jobseekers.

In tandem with those reforms, there were new engagement processes with jobseekers, and new schemes, such as JobsPlus and Momentum.

We also focused on making work pay and removing so-called welfare traps.

The introduction in Budget 2015 of the Back to Work Family Dividend – where families returning to work retained the child-related element of their welfare payments for a set time – was a key example.

All this work has paid off: unemployment is now down to 8.8%.

And behind every new job is a person or family benefitting from the wider economic recovery.

Take JobsPlus, for example – a straightforward scheme whereby we help employers with wage costs when they hire someone who has been long-term unemployed.

Today, there are more than 6,000 people back at work because of JobsPlus alone – three in five of whom had been unemployed for more than two years.

In all, more than 75,000 people who were long-term unemployed in 2012 are now back at work.

We have also gone to great lengths to ensure work pays.

The Government has ensured that the minimum wage is now worth €3,000 more a year to a worker than it was in 2011.

We’ve reduced USC for low and middle-income workers to ensure they have more take-home pay.

And so on.

But we’ve more work to do, because there are still too many people out of work, and not benefitting from recovery.

An 8.8% unemployment rate is still too high.

That’s where the new five-year Pathways strategy comes in.

We consulted widely in the development of this strategy.

The recurring themes of the consultation were:

To focus on the young and long-term unemployed;

To consolidate and build upon the successes of previous Pathways to Work strategies; and

To consider expansion of employment supports to lone parents, carers and people with disabilities who have a capability and an interest in working.

A very strong message also emerged about the need to further engage and involve employers.

Finally, we were urged to build upon the reforms of the further education and training sector, particularly in continuing to build workforce skills.

Pathways 2016-2020 will do all that and more.

This strategy will be about building on success – but also about recognising failure where it occurs.

There will be intense and robust evaluation of our schemes and measures to tell us what’s working – and what’s not.

There will be challenging targets for us to meet – and exceed.

And we will exceed them.

To achieve the ultimate goal – a job for everyone who wants one.

And a recovery that benefits all.

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