Anthony Foley: How Ireland’s Thriving Job Market Shines a Light on the Economy

"Irish Labour Market Continues to Shine Despite Struggling Housing Market"

Ireland’s economy has been hit hard by the poorly performing housing market, but there is a bright spot in the form of the labour market. Despite recent tech sector job cuts, the country is close to full employment, with several sectors experiencing labour shortages. In the final quarter of 2022, Ireland had an unemployment rate of 4.1%, compared to the EU average of 5.9%. While Ireland ranked ninth out of 27 countries, four countries, including the Netherlands and Poland, had unemployment rates below 3%.

The Central Statistics Office’s Labour Force Survey provides a detailed breakdown of Ireland’s labour market. Between 2012 and 2022, the number of jobs in Ireland increased by 36%, from 1.8929 million to 2.5745 million. In the same period, the total employment in Dublin city and county increased by only 14%, highlighting the magnitude of the increase in the national economy. Employment has surged since the immediate pre-COVID period, with an increase of 217.2k jobs since Q4 2019.

Of the total number of people employed in Ireland, 53.2% are male and 46.8% are female. Part-time employment is predominantly female, with women accounting for 68.7% of the total, compared to 31.3% for men. The main reasons cited by women for part-time employment were caring for children or incapacitated adults (29.1%), education or training (20.9%), and other family or personal reasons (16.3%). Only 7.1% of women worked part-time because they could not find full-time employment. For men, the main reason for part-time work was education or training (33.8%), followed by other reasons (29.8%) and inability to find full-time work (12.3%).

Overseas workers make up 19.1% of the Irish workforce, or 490.6k people. This is measured as citizens of countries other than Ireland, but their contribution to the economy’s labour needs is likely higher because some originally overseas workers would now be Irish citizens.

The industries or sectors that provided the most new jobs over the past decade were industry (82.8k), health and welfare (78.4k), construction (78.2k), information and communication (67.3k), education (66.1k), and professional and scientific activities (61.6k). These six sectors accounted for 64% of the total increase in employment.

Total employment is classified into self-employed with employees (4.0% of the total), self-employed with no employees (8.9%), and employees (86.2%). Self-employment is less prevalent in the female labour force than in the male labour force. Employees are 91.9% of total female workers compared to 81.2% of males. In self-employed with employees, the female share is 1.8% and the share of total male employment is 5.9%. In self-employed with no employees, the female share is 5.3% and the male share is 12.1%.

While unemployment is expected to remain low and employment to continue growing, recent tech sector job cuts serve as a reminder not to take the labour market’s positive performance for granted. Anthony Foley, associate professor emeritus of economics at Dublin City University Business School, highlights the need to remain vigilant and ensure continued growth in the labour market.

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