Supporting women in returning to the workforce is crucial to meet labour market shortages and maintain economic growth, according to the National Recruitment Federation. 

The professional body for Ireland’s recruitment industry this week made its pre-Budget submission, illustrating how growth projections for the Irish economy are based on the continued strong performance of the Irish labour market, and related growth in personal consumption.

"Gains in employment and incomes remain the key drivers of growth, and yet, ironically, the serious labour supply pressures now emerging are threatening Ireland’s productivity and competitiveness", says Frank Farrelly, President of the National Recruitment Federation.

The rapid decline in unemployment poses significant challenges for the economy, the NRF report maintains.  Difficulty in sourcing sufficiently qualified individuals to support manufacturing and services, and the wage pressures arising from these shortages, will cause Irish businesses to become uncompetitive or even, in the case of some SMEs, will render them unviable.

As well as added investment in education and training for the unemployed, and those in the workplace, addressing Ireland’s ‘worryingly low’ female labour force participation is essential, the NRF maintains.

Women in Ireland over the age of thirty-five have lower participation rates in the workforce than their EU counterparts, where a higher rate of female participation would mitigate the labour shortages that threaten competitiveness, according to the NRF President.

"Childcare, essentially its provision and cost, and aspects of the social welfare system that discourage jobseekers from taking up part-time work, are the main issues to address if women are to be supported in going back to work", Frank Farrelly claims.

In other countries, childcare costs are heavily subsidised by the State.  But the lack of availability of affordable childminding and after-school childcare in Ireland is contributing to low rates of participation by women in the workforce, the NRF report says.