Earlier this year the Government published Our Rural Future, their policy for rural development over the period 2021-2025. In the document the Government note that “Our Vision is for a thriving rural Ireland which is integral to our national economic, social, cultural and environmental wellbeing and development, which is built on the interdependence of urban and rural areas, and which recognises the centrality of people, the importance of vibrant and lived-in rural places, and the potential to create quality jobs and sustain our shared environment.”
The principles underpinning this policy are to be found on page twenty-two and they state that Our Rural Future will be:
- People-centred: Recognising the centrality of people, to enable them to increase their capability and confidence to achieve progress together, based on their rights and aspirations.
- Sustainable: Promoting and developing sustainable rural communities, economies, and environment and linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
- Participative and Inclusive: Building active participation, fostering social cohesion amongst all communities and prioritising the needs of those experiencing social or economic exclusion, including rural isolation.
- Integrated: Ensuring consistency with strategies across national and local government to achieve complementarity of objectives and actions and to ensure coordinated delivery.
- Progressive: Building on significant positive progress as well as retaining the flexibility necessary to capitalise on emerging opportunities.
- Rural-Urban Interdependence: Recognising the functional interdependence between urban and rural areas, and the economic and social interactions between the two. With this in mind, the policy seeks to reframe the narrative around rural Ireland to reflect the integral role which rural areas play and their economic and social importance to our national development.
It is to be welcomed that these principles will be “consistent with the State’s commitments to progressing human rights and equality in Ireland” and that the policy “aligns in design and implementation with the Public Sector Equality and Human Rights Duty”.
On the issue of employment, the Government notes that “Our ambition is to have more people working in rural Ireland, with access to quality employment opportunities and improved career prospects”. (p37) Chapter 4 focuses on Supporting Employment and Careers in Rural Areas and contains actions 21-45 of this plan. Most of these actions focus on enterprise and employment development, ranging from IDA lead initiatives to the potential of the green economy to social enterprises. There are only three actions which deal with the issue highlighted in the title of this chapter and they include two new plans: Action Plan for Apprenticeship 2021-2025 and Pathways to Work Strategy 2021-2025; and an existing strategy, the National Disability Inclusion Strategy.
It is not clear how exactly a new apprenticeship plan will help people seeking employment in the areas targeted for development under Our Rural Future, in particular older workers looking to re-skill. To-date the Pathways to Work strategies have focused in on people in receipt of a welfare payment, in particular Jobseeker’s Benefit or Allowance, so how will the new one support anybody of working age who needs career advice and employment supports? This group would include people who because of their personal or family circumstances did not make the transition from JB to JA, but who remain unemployed. This is an issue that may well face people who have been in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment.
To read the full policy please follow this link.