The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation has said the country's unemployment rate is "far too high".

However, he said Ireland is seeing growth in private sector employment, exports and international investment.

Richard Bruton said there is still a lot of groundwork to be done to reach the target of 100,000 extra people at work by 2016.

Mr Bruton said competitiveness has to be re-built and measures like the personal insolvency bill to help people struggling with debt have to be put in place.

The Minister said that he can understand the frustrations that are out there, adding that he too is frustrated that the Government "can't deliver faster or better".

However Mr Bruton said that over the last 15 months, some headway has been made in helping get the country back on track.

"All of this change is being put in place at a time when the rest of Europe is downgrading its growth forecasts. The figures now show that in 2011 we did succeed in getting 1.4% GDP growth, that is a significant achievement and creates a bigger base in our economy to help us tackle the problems ahead,'' the Minister said.

Bruton wants to avoid adding to employment costs

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation has said the Government would have to be extremely careful about anything that would add to the cost of employment at the present time.

Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, he also said the issue of whether any proposed measure would be effective in reducing absences and dependance on welfare would have to examined.

Minister Richard Bruton said proposals for a statutory sick pay scheme would impact on competitiveness and employment.

He said that impact would need to be weighed against the potential for savings from reduced absence from work due to sickness.

Mr Bruton was responding to questions from Fianna Fáil's Willie O'Dea on his dealings with the Department of Social Protection.

Deputy O'Dea said he was inundated with queries from people worried about Minister Joan Burton's proposals which he said would add to the cost of employing people such as increased employer PRSI and more liability for sick pay.

Minister Bruton said there had been a big growth in long term dependance on welfare on sickness grounds and the causes of that needed to be examined.

He said most small businesses do not have sick pay schemes, so there were serious issues to be examined such as the impact on the cost of employment.

Deputy O'Dea pointed out that it was a centre piece of the Minister's employment creation plans to halve PRSI in certain instances, so the idea of increasing PRSI flew in the face of that.