For Oral Answer on : 23/02/2023
Question Number(s): 105 Question Reference(s): 9017/23
Department: Enterprise, Trade and Employment
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
To ask the Minister for Enterprise; Trade and Employment the action his Department and the relevant State agencies under the remit of his Department, have taken or plan to take to facilitate remote working in all its forms; his views on the extent of remote working at present and on likely trends; his views on the impact that working remotely will have on future development of enterprise and on foreign direct investment in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
According to the Central Statistics Office, in the third quarter of 2022, just over 550,000 (around 23% of those in work) were ‘usually’ working from home, with over 250,000 (or just under 11% of those in work) ‘sometimes’ working from home. While this represents a decline in the total since the height of the pandemic, the numbers working from home remain significantly above pre-pandemic figures.
The data show that interest in remote working remains strong and point to hybrid working becoming the new normal for many workers.
At present, the numbers working remotely are disproportionately located in Dublin and the East of the country, reflecting the relatively high share of jobs in this region that are in sectors amenable to remote working, such as technology and finance. Over time, remote working has significant potential to enable a more even spread of high-value jobs across the country and this is one of the reasons why Government attaches such importance to its National Remote Work Strategy.
Remote working has the potential to help create a more inclusive labour market and society. This is particularly true of for women, people with caring responsibilities, people with disabilities, and people in rural communities. This in turn gives employers access to a wider pool of talent.
Female participation in the labour force in Ireland is at record high levels, and currently stands at 59% – nearly 3 percent higher than in Q3 2019, before the pandemic. This is at least in part due to remote working.
Research by the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service (IGEES) found that remote working can result in significant cost savings for firms if they downsize, or re-locate, from city centre offices with such cost savings potentially available for productivity-enhancing innovation and investment.
The same research also found that remote working could also help improve linkages between foreign and Irish-owned firms, as it reduces geographical barriers to doing business.
Remote working can therefore help to boost Ireland’s international competitiveness, attractiveness as a destination for foreign direct investment and, as stated, the regional spread of jobs, important objectives of the Government’s new White Paper on Enterprise.
While the National Remote Work Strategy is a whole-of-Government endeavour, I would highlight the following actions being taken by my Department and its agencies to facilitate remote work in a way which maximises its economic, social and environmental benefits:
- Chairing the Remote Work Interdepartmental Group which oversees the implementation of the National Remote Work Strategy and coordinates remote working policy across Government;
- Legislating for the right to request remote working for all workers through the Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2022;
- The publication of the Code of Practice on the Right to Disconnect by the Workplace Relations Commission;
- Significant investment in Ireland’s National Hub Network and ConnectedHubs.ie platform- with approximately €100m invested by the Government through various funding streams in partnership with the Department of Rural and Community Development (DRCD). The network includes Enterprise Ireland’s nationwide network of Enterprise Centres;
- My Department and the DRCD are leading on the development of a National Hub Strategy which will be launched later this year. The strategy will aim to maximise the potential of the National Hub Network as an enabler of enterprise, rural and regional employment, sustainable and resilient communities and as a contributor to achieving to Ireland’s ambitious climate action goals;
- My Department continues to update and promote its Guidance for Working Remotely webpage and Employer Checklist which help businesses to navigate the implementation of remote working arrangements safely successfully, and includes material from agencies such as the Health and Safety Authority and Enterprise Ireland;
- IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and the Local Enterprises Offices have ongoing engagement with their client firms to share knowledge, skills best practice for the implementation of remote working arrangements;
- Enterprise Ireland has developed and continues to promote its Future of Work website which features a range of resources to assist companies in transitioning to the remote, hybrid and flexible working cultures of the post-Covid environment. IDA Ireland and EI have also partnered with Laois-Offaly Education and Training Board (ETB) to provide remote work skills training courses for employees and managers;
- Ireland’ remote working policy environment and infrastructure are being promoted to both indigenous businesses and international investors as part of the Government’s agenda for balanced regional development, as enablers of talent attraction and retention and as part of Ireland’s attractiveness as a destination for foreign direct investment.
Future trends in relation to remote working are difficult to predict and will be in influenced by many factors, including the preferences of employers and employees, labour market conditions and the evolution of Ireland’s enterprise base. However, I have no doubt that remote work will be a permanent feature of working life in Ireland, with significant potential benefits for Ireland in terms of labour market performance, productivity and international competitiveness.