Current Social Partnership Agreement: 'Towards 2016'
The INOU has, through the Community and Voluntary Pillar, been a partner in four National Social Partnership Agreements: 'Partnership 2000'; 'Programme for Prosperity and Fairness'; 'Sustaining Progress'; and 'Towards 2016'. This section discusses 'Towards 2016': what the agreement includes; structures the INOU is involved in; and what current developments. For further information on previous National Social Partnership Agreements, please check out the History sub-section.
'Towards 2016' covers a ten year framework and, as with previous social partnership agreements, the National Economic and Social Council produced a strategy which provided a background for T16. This 2006 strategy was called "People, Productivity and Purpose" and its vision of "a dynamic, internationalised, and participatory society and economy, with a strong commitment to social justice, where economic development is environmentally sustainable, and internationally competitive" underpins T16. The shared overall goal of 'Towards 2016' is to realise this vision by:
- Nurturing the complementary relationships between social policy and economic prosperity;
- Developing a vibrant, knowledge-based economy;
- Re-inventing and repositioning Ireland's social policies;
- Integrating an island-of-Ireland economy; and,
- Deepening capabilities, achieving higher participation rates and more successfully handling diversity, including immigration.
T16 is divided into two parts: the second part focuses primarily on the issue of pay and related issues; and though many people are employed in the community and voluntary sector, the CV Pillar is not party to this section of the agreement.
The first part covers a broad range of economic and social issues and involves all of the pillars. Informing the structure of part one is the lifecycle framework first described in NESC's reports the 'Developmental Welfare State'. The rationale behind this approach is that the individual is placed at the centre of policy development and delivery: the four stages include children; people of working age; older people; and people with disabilities. However, the INOU believes a key challenge to this approach is dealing with the structural nature of the issues facing many communities and individuals who remain marginalized in Irish society.
Key areas of importance
- The dynamics of employment and unemployment: the key sections for the organisation are Section 31, which focuses on people of working age. The sections on older people and people with disabilities also include key objectives. Sections 2, 3 and 7 cover enterprise, innovation, technology and manufacturing which have implications for developments in a rapidly changing labour market. The leading Departments for these sections are Enterprise, Trade and Employment; and Education and Science.
- Income adequacy: an important development in this area was the eventual achievement of the target that the basic social welfare payment would equal 30% of Gross Average Industrial Earnings. This was achieved in Budget 2007 and maintained in Budget 2008. It will be important that in more difficult economic times that this target is not only maintained but enhanced as the State has set itself a target of eliminating consistent poverty to zero by 2016. Section 31.2.3 deals with this and other issues relating to income. Section 30.2.5 focuses on income supports for children and their families. Work is still outstanding in this area and in particular how best to deal with the issue of child poverty in low-income families taking account of employment disincentives.
- There is a well-established link between educational attainment and employment status. Section 31.3.1 deals with young adults and particular education and training needs. Other sections of the document including 31.2.1 and 31.2.2 cover issues of older adults education, training and employment interrelated needs. Section 17 covers a wider range of education and training issues.
Bodies the INOU are represented on
The INOU are represented on three bodies through the Community and Voluntary Pillar:
- The National Economic and Social Council (NESC);
- The National Social Partnership Group on the Labour Market;
- The National Social Partnership Group on Activation: under 'Towards 2016', the National Development Plan, and the National Plan for Social Inclusion, the Department of Social and Family Affairs was given an enhanced role in the area of activation.
Review of 'Towards 2016'
On page 76 of the Agreement it notes a "formal review will take place during 2008. This will provide an opportunity to take stock of outcomes achieved in relation to the overall goals and to consider any opportunities arising to refocus and prioritise." This review refers to Part 1 of the agreement: Part II, which deals with pay, the workplace, employment rights and compliance, is currently being re-negotiated.
The current economic downturn presents considerable challenges to securing the timely implementation of T16. The INOU strongly believes that living standards of people in receipt of welfare payments and in low paid jobs must not only be maintained but should be improved over the life time of this Agreement. Access to well paid decent employment still provides the most assured route out of poverty and to this end investment in people's talents and skills is crucial. Such investment is of vital importance if Ireland is to pursue its goal of becoming a knowledge based economy and an inclusive society.
The initial Towards 2016 review process has now been completed, to download the review and transitional agreement CLICK HERE