Public Policy Bulletin, 1 April 2021

Apr 01, 2021


In this week's Public Policy news, read about Ireland's unemployment figures and a €20 million boost for apprentice provision, Northern Ireland's public consultation on a new energy strategy, and an expansion in the UK's 'Race to Zero' campaign. 

CSO publishes March 2021 monthly unemployment statistics

Figures released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) this week show that the ‘COVID-19 adjusted’  unemployment rate for March 2021 was 24.2 percent if all claimants of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) were classified as unemployed. This figure is down from 24.8 percent in February 2021, and up from 21.1 percent this time last year.

The seasonally adjusted figures show that the rate of unemployment in Ireland in March 2021 remains unchanged from the February 2021 figure of 5.8 percent, and 0.8 percent up on the figure for this time last year.  These figures classify claimants of the PUP as employed.

This is the first time the CSO has been able to analyse a full year of unemployment figures using the new COVID-19 Adjusted Measure. First published in April 2020 as part of the March 2020 Monthly Unemployment Estimates release,  this measure assumes that all those who are in receipt of the PPUP would be classified as ‘Employed’ for the standard measure on Monthly Unemployment and ‘Unemployed’ for the COVID-19 Adjusted Measure of Unemployment.

The CSO also noted that at least 8.1 percent of all recipients of the PUP recipients are certified as attending full-time education. 

€20 million funding announced for apprenticeship provision

Capital funding of €20 million has been announced for the expansion of apprenticeship provision across further and higher education in Ireland. The expansion of the national apprenticeship system has been a key Government priority since 2016 and responds to the growing demand for apprenticeships.

1Speaking at the announcement, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, TD, announced that the move “reaffirms the Government’s strong commitment to enhancing and expanding the apprenticeship system.”  As of 31 January 2021, 19,773 apprentices are in training, employed by over 7,200 employers on 60 different apprenticeship programmes,

Minister of State for Skills and Further Education Niall Collins, TD, stated that the investment would help mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and facilitate long-term expansion:

“The forthcoming Action Plan will set out to place apprenticeships at the centre of the education and training system, increase the attractiveness of the programme to employers and learners of all ages, and ensure that the apprentice population is reflective of the general workforce in respect of diversity as well.” 

Public consultation on new Energy Strategy for Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland’s Economy Minister Diane Dodds this week announced a public consultation on a new energy strategy for Northern Ireland. The consultation seeks views on options for achieving net zero carbon and affordable energy, concentrating particularly on the contribution of domestic and business consumers, as well as the energy industry. Stressing the opportunities in the drive towards net zero carbon and affordable energy to create jobs and encourage investment, Minister Dodds stated:

“These changes will offer numerous opportunities including the creation of new jobs, developing skills and encouraging local investment. The new Energy Strategy will help Northern Ireland rebuild stronger as a greener economy, as well as providing healthier lifestyle choices for us, our communities, and our environment.”

This is the second stage of public consultation in the development of a new Energy Strategy for Northern Ireland. The first stage of consultation was a Call for Evidence which closed on 3 April 2020, and involved thematic workshops, stakeholder engagement and collaboration between five working groups covering energy efficiency, heat, power, transport and consumers.

This new consultation is open from now until 30 June 2021. 

UK expands efforts in its ‘Race to Zero’ campaign

The UK government is set to expand its 2050 ‘Race To Zero’ campaign to encourage smaller businesses to join the initiative. Andrew Griffith, who leads the UK net-zero business strategy, announced this week that up to 30 companies in the FTSE 100 index – one-third of the biggest companies in the UK – have signed up to the campaign, including Aviva, SSE, Tesco, and Unilever.

Commenting, UK High Level Climate Champion for COP26 Nigel Topping, said that: “With over 15% of the global economy - and now 30% of the FTSE100 - in the Race to Zero, we are close to a critical inflection point, with credible net zero commitments fast becoming the new normal. If they don’t join soon, the companies that have so far failed to engage with climate change risk falling behind the curve.”

Race To Zero is a global initiative, backed by science-based targets and spearheaded by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It commits businesses, cities, regions, investors and universities to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. To be accepted into the Race to Zero campaign, company leaders must pledge to reach net-zero by 2050, commit to publishing 5–10-year plans of how they will achieve their target, and sign up to Science Based Targets to monitor and assess their progress. 


You can find information, guidance and supports to help members understand sustainability and meet the challenges it presents in our Sustainability Centre.


Read all our updates on our Public Policy web centre