The number of jobs lost by Enterprise Ireland supported companies exceeded those created last year, with some 17,368 total job losses reported in a “challenging” year.
According to an end of year review from the State’s agency for supporting Irish business, the “significant” impact of Covid-19 hit the sector hard.
Overall, job creation closely matched the performance in 2019, with 16,496 new jobs created in Enterprise Ireland backed companies last year, bringing total employment up to 220,613. However, job losses increased to 17,368, which resulted in net job losses of 872.
Enterprise Ireland chief executive Julie Sinnamon said that 2020 was “a very challenging year” for Irish enterprise, due to the dual threats of Covid-19 and Brexit.
Client companies in some sectors saw significant employment growth in 2020, including life sciences (up by 6.8 per cent); cleantech (up 6 per cent ); and construction (up 4.7 per cent). Some sectors saw overall job losses, including food, where employment fell by 1.5 per cent.
In total, €142 million in funding from EI was provided to 1,919 companies under a range of Covid-19 funding initiatives introduced in response to the pandemic, including €11.8 million under the online retail scheme. In addition, 8,650 companies were supported through Enterprise Ireland’s Covid-19 information hub, online support and helpline.
Looking ahead, Ms Sinnamon said that its plan is to help exporters to the UK in three main areas; “helping businesses who haven’t yet put in place people and processes to handle new customs procedures for exporting to the UK to do so; ensuring exporters remain competitive in the UK by engaging with their supply chain and customers; and helping them identify new opportunities for growth both in the UK market, and also in Europe and beyond.”
Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar, TD, said that “workers in most areas have paid a price to protect public health and limit the spread of the virus over the past year. The good news is that we now have vaccines, which will, over the course of the year allow us to reduce restrictions and get those sectors back on their feet”.
Enterprise Ireland also announced its new strategic priorities for 2021, including increasing employment to 222,000, supporting a recovery in exports, with a continued focus on market diversification, in particular to the Eurozone, and increasing the level of R&D investment by Irish companies to € 1.25 billion.
“2021 will be a critical year for Irish enterprise and we will work closely with Irish businesses to help them accelerate the recovery,” Ms Sinnamon said.
EI’s new plan is based on three core pillars: srengthening Irish enterprise to respond to Covid-19 and Brexit; diving transformational change, through accelerating the pace of innovation, digitalisation and the transition to a low carbon economy; and scaling and growing the export and start-up base, across regions, sectors and companies of all sizes.