By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — If the economy is to continue to grow, a shift toward higher-skilled, higher-income, knowledge-intensive industrial projects is needed, according to Forfas, the government agency responsible for industrial policy.
In its report "Enterprise 2010," Forfas says this is the way to achieve continuing economic progress in a more competitive international environment. It recommends a doubling of investment in training by companies from 1.5 percent to 3.
Growth rates of 5 percent are achievable annually, but with labor force and employment growth likely to slow, productivity growth of 3 percent a year is needed, the report said.
At the launch of the report last week, Tanaiste Marty Harney said last year saw the worst job losses in a decade. Ireland, she said, can no longer compete with developing nations for low-cost jobs.
She warned that if employers fail to invest in their staff and in research and development, they will risk going out of business.
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Multinational companies have been much more progressive than indigenous industry in recognizing the importance of investing in people, Harney said.
"In the context of very low levels of taxes and what the government are doing in the area of infrastructural development, employers have go to see they have an important role to play in terms of the money they spend on training and upskilling their workforce," she said.
The report says net migration will be needed to meet labor shortages and it expects an increase in 90,000 jobs in the internationally traded sector, to 400,000, by 2010.
Employment in domestic business should grow by more than 300,000 to 1.1 million.
After the accelerated liberalization of the telecom sector and greater competition in air travel, the report calls for a similar development with electricity sector and other areas of the economy.