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Thank you Frank for inviting me to join you today.
Today’s jobs announcement - 600 new jobs - is an investment in talent and a vote of confidence in the Irish economy.
Your decision to expand services in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Waterford, Limerick and Belfast is also a strong endorsement of the all-island economy. 50 jobs will be based in the North and so this is a good news story for the entire island of Ireland.
Despite the challenges which exists for businesses both north and south of the border, we have every reason to be confident about the future and your continued expansion is evidence of that.
Our financial services sector is thriving and it is expanding. With 20 of the world’s top 25 financial services companies based here, Ireland is now a global financial centre. From modest beginning in the Docklands many years ago, this sector has become a national one, spread across the entire country.
The Government wants to ensure that our financial services sector continues to attract talented individuals from across the whole of Ireland. Our target is to have 50,000 people employed in the sector by 2025, and the way businesses like yours are expanding their operations is proof that we are on target.
Part of our international financial offering is that we encourage diverse workforces. You have led in this area, working to create an inclusive culture that respects and welcomes differences.
As we know, the world of work is changing every day, so we need to change with it. Through our new economic policy, Future Jobs Ireland, we are working to future proof our economy and enterprise. Enhancing productivity, increasing labour market participation, developing new skills and attracting talent. We are also taking advantage of opportunities arising from innovation and technological change as well as the transition to the low carbon economy.
By creating an economy that facilitates life-long learning and upskilling, our country will be able to embrace new opportunities and new markets for a digital world.
Businesses like yours are already leading the way – creating exciting employment opportunities in artificial intelligence, block chain and data science.
So ladies and gentlemen, the message today is that Ireland is open to investment, to capital, to trade, to talent and to creativity.
Notwithstanding the uncertainty of Brexit, this is a good time for investment in Ireland. We are the 7th most competitive economy in the world and the 2nd most competitive economy in the euro area. Our economy is being managed well, as are the public finances. We are at the heart of Europe, the single-market and Eurozone.
Today we have:
- 2.3 million people in employment. The most ever;
- An unemployment rate of around 5% and falling;
- Economic growth increasingly well spread across the country;
- Solid wage growth, with average earnings increasing by over 3% last year, well ahead of inflation;
- We have a budget surplus, one of the few countries that has.
- Falling poverty and deprivation rates;
- The national debt down as a % of GDP. About half of what it was five years ago;
- Public spending rising but at only half the rate it did in the “Celtic Tiger” period. That means it is sustainable;
- Household debt falling;
- Implementation of Project Ireland 2040, the Public Sector Stability Agreement on pay, and the National Childcare Scheme;
- Reforms to social protections like parental leave, and Job Seekers Benefit for the self-employed, are all on track and will be unaffected by Brexit; and
- Housing construction increasing and there is some evidence of house prices levelling off. More than 20,000 new homes were built in the past year.
Yes there are risks and challenges. The risk of a disorderly Brexit. Growing uncertainty in the global economy.
We cannot mitigate everything. But we can – and we are - taking decisive and positive action to minimise the impact.
Tomorrow’s Budget will work to protect the progress we have made in economic terms and also in terms of advancing social justice, equality of opportunity and improving quality of life.
The success of EY and our financial services sector shows that we have every reason to be positive and confident about the future.
Today’s jobs announcement confirms something that I have long believed. Talent and people are at the heart of our success and the companies that are successful are the companies that invest in them.
The Government will work with you so we can foster new opportunities for everyone.
I wish you every success in the future.