Business priorities and solution
1. Accelerate the EU and Ireland’s development as leading globally competitive digital economies
Completing an effective EU Digital Single Market framework and full adoption of digital technologies could be leveraged to add €27 billion to our GDP and have a positive net effect of up to 140,000 jobs by 2020.
The Minister should:
- engage industry and other interested stakeholders on policy that may impact Ireland’s growing digital economy – avoid excessive regulation
- ensure that implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Bill balances privacy, security and innovation in a digital single market that works
- work with line departments and EU partners to align the proposed ePrivacy Regulation (EPR) with the General Data Protection Regulation and not disrupt the current balance between protecting personal data and facilitating innovative business models. Quality should take priority over speed in this process. Sufficient time is needed by the co-legislators to fully consider and improve the EPR proposal. Stakeholders who will apply the final result should also receive sufficient time to prepare.
- continue to invest in Ireland’s data protection and cyber-security frameworks to protect our growing digital economy.
2. Tackle digital piracy
Digital piracy inflicts significant damage on the economy. It leads to job losses and reduced exchequer income. It has been exacerbated by the increased proliferation of hosting sites that offer live television streams of premium programming and IPTV devices that provide unauthorised access to pay-television services. Major losses are suffered by the Exchequer, by rights holders and by providers of subscription television services. The UK Intellectual Property Office’s Crime Highlight Report 2014/15 states that there is a direct link between intellectual property crime and other serious criminal activity.
The Minister should:
- coordinate an anti digital piracy campaign as part of a wider strategy to protect intellectual property, positioning Ireland as a location of choice for content creation
- increase resources within An Garda Síochána to enable greater enforcement.
3. Reform the valuations process
The valuations system underlying the commercial rates-setting process is arcane. The revaluations process conducted by the Valuations Office is too slow, too expensive and seriously lacking in transparency. The process is designed to be revenue neutral so that local authorities are not left with holes in their budget. This approach creates ‘winners and losers’ in local authority areas where revaluation has occurred. Government estimates that 60% of businesses will see a reduction in their rates bill, leaving 40% facing higher charges. Evidence already points to increases in rates liabilities being immediate substantial and unforeseen.
The Minister should:
- acknowledge the direct link between the valuations process and the commercial rates system and examine the impact that both, when taken together, have on local business conditions and cost competitiveness
- increase transparency of the operation of the Valuations Office, including publications of detailed reports on outcomes of a revaluations process in a local authority area containing scales of average increase/decrease of valuations across different valuations categories
- ensure the Valuations Office publish data sets publicly to facilitate comparison of valuations across the country and across sectors. This occurs in the United Kingdom
- ensure local charges and the methodologies used in valuing all fixed assets are in line with other countries so they don’t undermine investment locally (e.g. renewable energy)
- improve the efficiency of the Valuations Office through the use of external contractors and self-assessment. The valuations system should be re-designed to achieve the efficiency and effectiveness of the local property tax (LPT) system.
4. Effectively address the gender pay gap
The gender pay gap in Ireland is 13.9% according to Eurostat, less than the EU average of 16.7% but still a significant gap. It refers to the difference between what is earned on average by women and men, based on average gross hourly earnings of all paid employees. The reasons for a gender pay gap can be multifaceted and tend to cover four key, interrelated areas: a gender segregated labour market; balancing work and family life; availability of quality, affordable childcare facilities and out-of-school hours care; and over-representation of women in part-time roles.
The Minister should:
- replace the proposed transparency gender pay gap survey measure as it oversimplifies a complex issue and it open to misinterpretation. Instead, introduce a committed whole-of-government approach to allow Ireland to tap into the full potential of our male and female talent and effectively address the gender pay gap
- address gender norms and challenge occupational and social stereotypes that remain regarding educational subject choices and career decisions of men and women. This requires interventions in teacher training, career guidance, raising awareness in parents and students alike.
- deliver a whole-of-government approach on high quality available and affordable childcare facilities, out of hours care arrangements and other public services should be strengthened by government and public authorities
- challenge the experiences of career returners and ensure that the period of time they have stepped away from their career does not relegate them to a position much lower than they left or find them unable to recover from such a break.
Ibec is Ireland's largest and most influential business representative. We proudly speak on behalf of 7,500 Irish businesses; home grown, multinational, big and small, spanning every sector of the economy and employing 70% of the private sector workforce in Ireland. Together with our 40+ trade associations, we lobby government and policy makers nationally and internationally to maintain a positive climate for business and drive economic growth. Our policy is shaped by our members through the work of our board, national council, policy committees and trade associations. We regularly produce market leading industry and business events, positions on issues impacting business, economic research, forecasts and analysis. We also provide a wide range of professional services and management training to members on all aspects of human resource management, occupational health and safety, employee relations and employment law. With 200 staff in 6 offices around Ireland as well as an office in Brussels and connections in the U.K. and Washington, Ibec communicates the Irish business voice to key stakeholders at home and abroad.
 Boston Consulting Group (2016) Digitizing Ireland – How Ireland can drive and benefit from an accelerated digitized economy in Europe.