More than 70,000 people left unemployed because of Covid-19 will be back working by the end of the year, the Minister for Finance has said.
Paschal Donohoe said getting people back into jobs will be a “huge driver” of tax revenue increases.
More than 400,000 people are currently claiming the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP).
Mr Donohoe said economic forecasts show that around 220,000 people could be back working next year, meaning it could be 2023 before Ireland returns to pre-pandemic employment levels.
He added getting people back to work will be the “key driver” of closing the gap between what the Government spends and what it taxes.
“In every budget that I have done there has always been changes in taxes … that have made and delivered higher levels of tax revenue,” Mr Donohoe told RTÉ Radio 1’s Today With Claire Byrne programme.
“I believe it (employment) will be the single biggest driver of how we get our economy growing again and close the gap between spending and taxation.
“But it’s still the case that, budget by budget by budget, there will still be decisions that will need to be made that won’t be easy, that will need to be defended, and that will also play the final part in the jigsaw in closing this gap.”
Mr Donohoe also said he expects a recommendation by the end of the week on whether the Government will decide to extend the interval between the first and second doses of the Covid-19 vaccines.
The Government is awaiting advice on extending the interval from four weeks to some 12 weeks.
The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) is currently examining the merits of changing the current vaccination programme to help speed up the rollout.
“Effective vaccinations is the key thing within our country, we’re on track to do that,” Mr Donohoe said.
“Our vaccination strategy is working. We vaccinated 140,000 of our citizens last week, it’ll be 170,000 at least this week.
The most important target of the vaccination programme is reducing sickness, hospitalisations, ICU & mortality. Thankfully our #COVID19 hospitalisations are now down to 179 from a peak of over 2,000 & ICU down to 46. Let's not loose sight of the ultimate aim. @HSELiveAdvertisement
— Paul Reid (@paulreiddublin) April 19, 2021
“There are questions in relation to the deterioration of the vaccination dividend, and there’s also questions we have to tease out then regarding what impact this will have and how long we have to run our vaccination programme.
“So there is undoubtedly some important benefits of a single dose, but are also consequences to it.”
Meanwhile, HSE chief executive Paul Reid said hospital admission numbers have significantly reduced from a peak earlier this year.
He tweeted: “The most important target of the vaccination programme is reducing sickness, hospitalisations, ICU and mortality.
“Thankfully our Covid-19 hospitalisations are now down to 179 from a peak of over 2,000, and ICU down to 46.
“Let’s not lose sight of the ultimate aim.”