Action Plan for Jobs 2015 – next step in multi-annual plan to deliver full employment by 2018

29th January, 2015

The Government today (Thursday) published the Action Plan for Jobs 2015, the next step in the multi-annual process aimed at delivering full employment by 2018.

The Plan is the fourth annual plan in a multi-year process which started in early 2012, and sets out in detail the 382 actions to be taken by 16 Government Departments and over 60 State Agencies during 2015 to support job-creation, with deadlines and lead responsibility assigned. Building on the success of previous plans, the 2015 plan includes six new Disruptive Reforms.

The 2015 plan was launched today at the global headquarters of ICON plc, an Irish multinational company which employs 11,000 people in 38 countries, including 1000 in Ireland. ICON also announced the creation of 200 innovation jobs which are part-funded by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation through Enterprise Ireland.

Three years ago in February 2012, at a very different time for employment in Ireland, the Government launched the first Action Plan for Jobs at ICON’s headquarters with a target at that time of delivering an extra 100,000 jobs by 2016, a target which will be delivered upon during 2015, over 12 months early.

Among the headline measures to be delivered in 2015 through the Action Plan for Jobs are:

  • Regions – Regional Enterprise Strategies to be rolled out shortly across the country – including competitive funding initiatives of up to €25million, aimed at encouraging stakeholders in each region to cooperate to develop projects to support enterprise and job-creation in their area
  • Startups – new measures to deliver on ambitious targets for job-creation by start-ups, including a new SURE tax incentive to provide funding for people starting businesses, and a Start Up Gathering to be held in Ireland during 2015
  • Red tape – cut red tape by reducing the administrative burden of 750,000 business interactions with Government in 2015, and by delivering a streamlined online system for applying for 29 retail licenses in early 2015
  • Skills – a National Talent Drive, including a 60% increase in the number of ICT graduates from the higher education system by 2018
  • Innovation – make Ireland a European leader for intellectual property activities by business – including doubling by 2018 the number of patents, industrial designs registered and other measurable IP activities by businesses in Ireland. Also establishment during 2015 of a National Health Innovation Hub
  • Energy – Ireland will become Europe’s Energy Innovation Hub by 2020 – by becoming a world leader in key parts of the innovative energy sector we will attract more mobile investment and develop more Irish businesses
  • Exports – Over 27,000 new jobs in exporting companies during 2015, supported by Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland. Exports by Irish companies supported by EI to hit record €19billion during 2015
  • Awareness – target increased awareness among business of Government supports available to help them, through a campaign centred around , which will go live shortly
  • Competitiveness and productivity – measures to support improved competitiveness and productivity, including  a €39million fund for businesses to make savings in energy and a new focus by the National Competitiveness Council on concrete measures that can deliver specific improvements
  • Domestic economy – an increased focus on job-creation in the domestic economy, including measures to support the retail, construction and agriculture sectors

Another crucial innovation contained in the 2015 plan, in response to observations on the Action Plan for Jobs process provided by the OECD during 2014, is a new approach to assessing the impact of the measures, which is built into the Plan. The OECD in an official review of the APJ process in April 2014 endorsed the process, calling it “an important innovation in Irish governance”.

The Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD said: "ICON's announcement of 200 new jobs divided between Leopardstown and Limerick is particularly fitting today because of the special focus in this year’s Action Plan for Jobs on regional economic development.  As part of the Action Plan, a number of Government agencies will be shortly outlining their regional enterprise plans to map out what they will do to help create new jobs across Ireland.  This is an essential part of our plan to ensure the recovery is felt nationwide and leads to balanced economic development.  As we continue to plot the path to full employment in 2018, I expect that next year we will see more Irish people returning home to take up jobs than those leaving.  This will be an important turning point in our economic recovery."

The Tánaiste, Joan Burton TD said: "We are making very significant progress in getting people back to work, but we want to increase the momentum. So we are introducing further schemes to assist jobseekers return to employment, including the Back to Work Family Dividend. Under the scheme, jobseekers returning to work will retain the element of the welfare payment which they receive for their children. It means that, over two years, a family with one child will receive additional support of €2,324 to supplement wages.  A family with two children will receive €4,649, those with three children will get €6,973, while those with four or more will get €9,298. This is very valuable assistance and will help families build towards financial independence over time."

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD said: “When we visited ICON to launch the first Action Plan for Jobs in early 2012, unemployment was at 15.1% and the numbers at work had collapsed. Today as we come back to launch our fourth annual Action Plan for Jobs, while we have a very long way to go, we have made important progress with 80,000 extra people at work and unemployment down to 10.6%. And ICON – a genuine Irish multinational, a great example of what we are trying to achieve through our plan – is also making major progress, announcing today an extra 200 jobs, roughly half in Dublin and half in the Mid West. If we continue to implement our plan, people can have confidence that we can continue to create jobs – which is what will allow us to grow tax revenues, put money back in people’s pockets, deliver better services, and ultimately improve people’s lives”.

The Minister for Business and Employment, Ged Nash TD said: “Work should always pay and my role in the Action Plan for Jobs is to ensure that the jobs being created now are decent jobs, with decent pay and decent conditions. That is part of my dignity of work agenda. We will progress this agenda through, among other initiatives, the establishment of the Low Pay Commission shortly to recommend a new rate for the National Minimum Wage and a study into the prevalence and impact of zero hour and low hour contracts."

The Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English TD said: "The aim of the National Talent Drive and our policy on research and innovation is to maintain Ireland’s strong international position, deliver the right skills, and ensure that Irish companies remain strong on international markets. Hitting our ambitious full-employment target in 2018 means, for example, that existing enterprises have talented teams, and that our enterprises of the future emerge from entrepreneurs equipped with world class talents. Action Plan for Jobs 2015 is the strategy that can deliver all of this over the coming months and years."

For further information please contact:

Press Office, D/Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation ph. 6312200 or

Notes for Editors

The 2015 Action Plan for Jobs is available at: Action Plan for Jobs 2015 (PDF, 2.5MB)

The 2015 list of actions document is available at: Action Plan for Jobs 2015 - Table of Actions (PDF, 754KB)

Since the Action Plan for Jobs process was started in early 2012, almost 1000 discrete actions have been implemented by 16 Government Departments and dozens of State Agencies to support job-creation. When the first Plan was published in February 2012, a target of 100,000 extra jobs was set – an ambition which many commentators criticised for being overly ambitious. Since that time, 80,000 extra people are at work, and it is expected that the 100,000 target will be hit during 2015, over 12 months early.

A key part of the Action Plan process is setting of deadlines, assigning responsibility for delivering actions, and reporting on a quarterly basis on what actions were implemented on time and what actions were not. Today the Government also published the final Progress Report for the 2014 Action Plan for Jobs, showing that 91% of the 2014 actions have now been delivered. The 12th APJ Progress Report is available at: Action Plan for Jobs 2014 Fourth Progress Report (PDF, 1.79MB)

Among the conclusions of the OECD review of the APJ in May 2015 were:

“…Ireland’s Action Plan for Jobs (APJ) marks an important innovation in Irish governance…”

“Ireland is well on track to achieve the interim APJ target of 100,000 new jobs by 2016, while the longer-term aim of having 2.1 million employed people by 2020 also looks firmly within grasp.”

“The APJ’s focus on private sector-led, export-oriented job creation by getting framework conditions right and continually upgrading the business environment is a sound approach…”

 “The focus on building and strengthening linkages between the domestic SME and FDI sector is also welcome…”

“The APJ’s most striking innovation in the Irish public policy context is a coordination mechanism that ensures high-level political buy-in and oversight, whole-of-government engagement and the establishment of quarterly targets underpinned by a robust monitoring system. These are important steps towards addressing long-standing gaps that undermine successful policy implementation.”

Disruptive Reforms

Disruptive Reforms are discrete projects within the APJ framework.  They are proposed as having the potential to break out of conventional structures and to generate impact across a range of sectors and thereby give Ireland a lead, or build self-sustaining growth. In total, there are six new Disruptive Reforms to be advanced in 2015 as set out below:


National Talent Drive

This reform will focus on strengthening employability of learners and enhancing employer engagement at all levels, using collaborative funding initiatives to ensure skills supply meets demand to underpin the New Economy. We will increase higher education ICT graduates by 60% between 2015 and 2018, meeting 74% of demand through domestic supply in 2018. We will provide 1,250 extra ICT places for students in 2015. We will target 13,800 annual science, technology, engineering and maths graduates by 2018 (up from 10,200 in 2011), such that we can attract and retain world class talent, making sure work pays for all, and that we provide a great place to live and work.

Delivering Regional Potential

This will include the launch of new Competitive Funding Initiatives of up to €25 million to promote innovative collaborations to support entrepreneurship and innovation in the regions, exploiting regional competitive advantage, and promoting the required economic infrastructure and property solutions to attract investment.

Europe’s Energy Innovation Hub

As part of this reform we will provide a one-stop shop to position Ireland at the forefront of innovation and attracting mobile investment in energy related research, management services, technologies and solutions, and drive energy efficiency in the public and private sectors to improve competitiveness.  

Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland

This reform involves leveraging funding of €800 million, to provide tailored loans and a range of new products for enterprises across the country via existing and new to the Irish market financial intermediaries over the next 24 months.

Increasing Entrepreneurial Activity

By driving implementation of the actions in the new National Entrepreneurship Policy Statement we will double the jobs impact of start-ups in Ireland over the next five years, from 93,000 currently. We will increase the number of start-ups, the survival rate and the capacity of startups to grow to scale, all by 25%.

Intellectual Property in Enterprise

This reform includes doubling the number of patents, industrial designs registered and other IP management activities of firms. The objective is to achieve best in class in the EU by enhancing support for firms, drive commercialisation through Enterprise Ireland (EI) / Knowledge Transfer Ireland (KTI) and introduce a Knowledge Development Box to ensure the tax environment is optimised for innovative enterprises located here. This reform will include 130 commercially relevant technologies transferred to enterprise and 35 new spinout companies.


Other Key Actions and Impacts

Growing Jobs

EI and IDA Ireland are embarking on new ambitious strategies to grow jobs, investment, entrepreneurship and exports for Ireland. In 2015, Enterprise Ireland will target the creation of 13,000 gross new full-time jobs in client firms. IDA Ireland will target the creation of 14,000 gross new jobs. The creation of new jobs in agency supported firms have important spillovers to other sectors of the economy through expenditure on Irish materials and services. It is estimated that every direct job created in agency assisted firms indirectly supports another job in the wider economy thereby making a strong contribution to the overall target of getting to full employment in 2018.  Continued employment growth in the construction, retail and tourism sectors will ensure the target of 100,000 extra people at work by 2016 is achieved as early as possible in 2015.

Increasing Sales and Exports

Our recovery since 2011 is founded on a deliberate policy of driving export growth across the economy and supporting successful Irish based enterprises in international markets. Enterprise Ireland through its programmes and overseas office network will target support clients to achieve €19 billion in exports in 2015.

IDA Ireland will target the winning of 160 new investment projects for Ireland and Enterprise Ireland will target five new food FDI projects. We will extend the Special Assignee Relief Programme to 2017 and further improve the attractiveness of our offering. IDA Ireland and EI will work to secure an additional €30 million in sub-supply and sourcing contracts for Irish based firms to foreign subsidiaries in 2015, building on the progress since 2011.

We will provide over 300 tailored mentoring programmes to support growing enterprises. A programme of 18 overseas ministerial led trade missions and events will take place in 2015.

Stimulating the Domestic Economy through local employment

We will take a range of measures to ensure that the success in international markets is mirrored in the domestic economy and that all regions can achieve their potential. The agri-food sector reaches into every part of the country and achieving the ambitious targets under Food Harvest 2020 (FH2020) for farm level investment and in food processing will impact directly on employment prospects in rural areas and provide significant stimulus to local economies. EI will support 28 significant food industry investments, including five from foreign multinationals. The Food Competitiveness Fund will help to improve productivity and employment in the food processing sector. To support entrepreneurship we will implement a new Food Works initiative to support startups in the regions. We will support local business to go on-line and compete for new business locally and through exporting by providing support for 2,000 trading online vouchers, of which 1,450 will be provided in 2015.  

For the tourism sector we will promote Ireland internationally towards the target of 7.7 million overseas tourism visitors in 2015 and prepare a new Tourism Action Plan  to set out specific actions to achieve the policy goals set out in the Government’s tourism policy – “People Place and Policy - Growing Tourism to 2025”  . The Policy Statement has an overall target of bringing employment in the sector to 250,000 and overseas revenue to €5 billion by 2025. We will develop a new brand for the South East and Midlands of the country building on the success to date of the Wild Atlantic Way and implement the British-Irish Visa Scheme to ease access for visitors from new and emerging markets.  

Increasing Activation of the Unemployed

The focus of the Pathways to Work strategy is to ensure that the increase in employment generated by the actions under this Plan translates into a reduction in the number of people dependent on jobseeker payments and in particular those who are in long-term receipt of jobseeker payments. The objectives for 2015 are to roll-out the Employment and Youth Activation Charter, begin the new account management approach to employers, roll-out JobPath, continue to roll-out the Youth Guarantee initiatives, and introduce a Back to Work Family Dividend.

Increasing Entrepreneurial Activity

The launch of the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) was a major reform delivered in 2014. In 2015 the LEOs will have ambitious and robust county strategies and targets for startups, enterprise engagements and supports to be effective first-stop-shops for enterprise information and supports and launch an Entrepreneur Partnering Programme. The launch of the Startup Refunds for Entrepreneurs Scheme (SURE) in 2015 will provide additional finance for entrepreneurs.  We will build on the 2014 success of the awards programmes such as Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur and initiatives under the National Entrepreneurship Strategy. We will support 130 new entrepreneurs via the New Frontiers Programme, support 185 Competitive and High Potential Startups. There will also be a step up in ambition for the starting of export orientated companies and measures to see them more successfully grow in scale.


Specific measures will be taken in 2015 to reduce administrative burden for over half-a-million business interactions by, for example, greater use of ICT, revoking outdated legislation, and greater awareness and promotion of health and safety best practice.

It has been estimated that the cumulative impact of the actions set out will be to simplify over half a million interactions between the State and firms in 2015. For example the new post code and job-matching systems have the potential to positively impact on more than 180,000 firms each, the changes to business surveys set out below can improve more than 85,000 business interactions, the new e-services to be delivered for motor taxation and financial statements can improve almost 40,000 interactions, and the consolidation of legislation can enhance the administrative system for up to 45,000 users. Overall, it is by taking such small, sensible steps across the public sector that we can continually improve the operating environment for hundreds of thousands of employers across the country, making business easier, cutting costs, and enhancing the environment for job creation.    

Other improvements to be delivered in 2015 include the rollout of new company law which is reducing the administrative burden of company registration and filing systems, the new Workplace Relations Commission, trusted partners for the issuing of work permits, and the Integrated Licensing Applications Service.

In 2015 we will support 800 participants in EI Management Development courses. We will support 100 firms on the Platform for Growth scheme and increase the numbers of graduates on the International Growth programme. We will sustain a focus on monitoring and improving our competitiveness to achieve a top 5 position internationally, focusing in particular on the areas identified by the National Competitiveness Council of greatest impact for business. The implementation of the Government’s high-speed broadband plan will commence in 2015. The national postcode system will be implemented, making it easier in particular to undertake business-to-consumer ecommerce. We are making €39 million available in Energy Saving Supports for business in 2015 and local authorities will be encouraged to exercise restraint in adopting Annual Rates on Valuation which are used to calculate commercial rates.

Increasing Levels of Research, Development & Innovation (RD&I)

We will support enterprises and public research organisations to win €150 million in research funding from the EU under Horizon 2020 in 2015 as part of the overall national target of €1.25 billion over the full period of Horizon 2020. We will continue our €245 million programme of investment with industry in SFI Research Centres throughout the country. We aim to increase the number of enterprises who are RD&I active in both IDA and EI portfolios, and the numbers of spinout and licences coming from our research base.

Increasing the Flow of Appropriate Finance to SMEs

Since 2011 Government policy has focused on supporting SMEs, at all stages in the business cycle, to access a broader range of financing options from bank and non-bank sources. There is now evidence of improvements in the flow of appropriate finance to SMEs. The refusal rate of credit has fallen significantly and new lending to the SME sector from banks has begun to rise. The take up of non-bank financing options sponsored by the State is improving significantly. The appetite of SMEs for new borrowing remains somewhat subdued but there is an encouraging shift in the make up for new investments.

In 2015, efforts will continue to reinforce measures already introduced and there will be a concerted set of initiatives to speed up this progress in both bank and non-bank spheres.

As the economy moves into a new phase of growth, there is now an opportunity to address both cyclical and structural constraints in the financing of the SME sector and the continuing issue of the need for prompt payments. This will require a clear focus on how best to maximise the benefits to SMEs of the evolving financial landscape in Ireland and the adoption of actions that develop a more diversified and competitive financial system, capable of financing the growth potential of Irish SMEs.

The establishment of the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland will provide a further boost for improving availability of finance for SMEs in 2015.

New Approach to Assessing Impact

In developing APJ 2015 we have embedded an assessment framework that links the APJ’s objectives and actions to impacts, and which provides a better sense of the direction of progress and helps ensure that actions effectively contribute to the over-arching objective of increased employment.

We are introducing closer monitoring of impacts to measure performance and to test areas of opportunity against international benchmarks in the areas of job creation, startups, market penetration, innovation, efficiency of public sector interface with enterprises, cost competitiveness, finance and investment and access to talent. All agencies and departments have set out actions to contribute to the key indicators as part of this Action Plan for Jobs.

These reforms and initiatives are focused on making it easier to do business and to create jobs in every part of the country and we are determined through these actions to create the conditions to achieve the target of 100,000 extra people at work by 2016 and contribute to our longer-term goal of having 2.1 million at work in 2018