Sunday 15 December 2019

Ireland's 'well-oiled jobs machine shows few signs of flagging' despite Brexit - economist

SOLIDLY UPBEAT: Economist Dr Alan Ahearne. Photo: Andrew Downes
SOLIDLY UPBEAT: Economist Dr Alan Ahearne. Photo: Andrew Downes

Anne-Marie Walsh

IRELAND’S “well-oiled jobs machine shows few signs of flagging” as most bosses plan to hire over the next 12 months despite the looming threat of Brexit.

New research reveals that 76pc of employers expect to take on new staff in 2020, up from 68pc who said they would recruit this year.

Although a huge shroud of uncertainty hangs due to Brexit, 69pc said they are positive or fairly positive about the economy’s short-term prospects in the survey by professional jobs firm Lincoln Recruitment.

As the economy hits full employment, a top economist said bargaining power over wages and other working conditions is now “decisively shifting” towards employees.

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Professor of Economics and Director of the Whitaker Institute at the National University of Galway, Alan Ahearne said this largely explains a recent pickup in wage growth.

“Despite the recession in global manufacturing, the well-oiled Irish jobs machine shows few signs of flagging, with the most recent readings indicating that employment jumped 53,700 or 2.4pc in the third quarter of 2019 compared with the same period a year earlier,” he said in the report, ‘A New Decade of Work’.

Although wage growth has been modest in many sectors, the report finds that salary increases hover around 5pc across the finance, human resources, sales, marketing, engineering, IT, legal, and accountancy sectors.

Those in mid-level managerial positions received salary increases of between 10pc and 15pc this year, it said, “and continue to rank as the most highly sought-after professionals on the market”.

“Looking ahead, the consensus forecast is for the strength in employment growth to persist, though with some moderation in the pace of job creation over the next couple of years as the economy operates at full employment and the battle for talent amongst employers intensifies,” said Mr Ahearne.

He warned that inward migration is adding to pressures on the housing market as the labour force swelled by 38,000 to 2.4 million in the last year. However, he said Central Bank mortgage rules appear to have put a ceiling on house prices in Dublin.

He said the bulk of this increase is accounted for by demographic factors, including net inward migration.

Net migration this year is expected to be 34,000 – roughly unchanged from last year.

Since 2015, non-EU countries such as Brazil have provided a much larger contribution to labour force growth than Eastern European countries.

Most migrants moving to Ireland to work are highly skilled, with the majority holding a third level qualification.

He noted that employment is at a record high of 2.3 million and since a low point in 2012 at the end of the recession, the economy has created an “extraordinary” 425,000 new jobs across all regions and a broad range of industries.

However, following several years of strong growth employment in the construction industry edged up only slightly over the past year.

He speculated that this possibly reflects an emerging shortage of experienced construction workers and professionals.

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