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Ireland should 'embrace' a population of 10 million

And business group Ibec wants more money for infrastructure to cope with the growth.
Mar 4th 2015, 9:30 AM 40,860 147

THE ISLAND OF Ireland can expect to hit a population of 10 million before 2050 – and people should “embrace” that growth, the head of the country’s biggest business lobby group says.

But Ibec chief executive Danny McCoy today told the organisation’s CEO Conference at Dublin Castle the government has to act now to boost infrastructure spending to cope with future demand.

He said on current trends the population across the island would pass 10 million before the second half of the century and that carried with it “a range of new and exciting opportunities, but also challenges”.

“We have to start planning now, and set out clear, ambitious, but realistic objectives,” he said.

McCoy said big infrastructure gaps in health, transport, education and energy needed to be fixed as a priority, as did the shortage of available housing.

As it stands, we’re not investing nearly enough,” he said.

The total population across the island of Ireland currently stands at about 6.6 million, including an estimated 4.8 million people in the Republic.

However the most-recent projections from the CSO forecast the population in the south alone could swell to 6.7 million by 2046.

That figure is based on Ireland’s fertility rate – currently the highest in the EU – remaining steady and net immigration of 30,000 people a year.

IBEC CEO Conferences Ibec chief executive Danny McCoy Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

‘No appetite’ for national pay agreements

McCoy, whose group represents many of the country’s biggest firms, said wage pressures had started to re-emerge as the economy improved but many companies were still in survival mode and they “simply cannot afford pay rises”.

“Given this backdrop, business has no appetite for a return to one size fits all national pay agreements,” he said.

This year we have the chance to further cut unemployment and attract back migrants that left during the crisis, but we must not repeat past mistakes. If costs spiral and we lose our competitive edge, we will pay for it in jobs.”

The government recently launched the Low Pay Commission to look at raising the minimum wage, which has not been raised above €8.65 per hour since 2007.

McCoy also called on the government to cut income taxes with the highest marginal rate of 51% described as a “barrier to investment and job creation” and a “serious disincentive to work” when compared to other developed countries.

We need to be smart, nimble and ambitious. And we need a relentless focus on competitiveness. Something we lost to our detriment during our last growth phase.”

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Peter Bodkin

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