Is Ireland’s tech jobs boom ending? If so, is it a ‘soft landing’? Or is it all just a temporary blip in a long-term upward curve that is set to resume?
The answer often depends on who employs the economist, industry analyst or pollster you ask.
What is clear, though, is that there has been a hiring freeze under way at some of the country’s biggest blue-chip tech multinationals. Google and Meta, between them, employ close to 13,000 people in Dublin. Both have slashed their hiring plans this year.
Microsoft, Apple and Salesforce have also signalled a slowdown in bringing on new staff.
Others are actually cutting jobs, something that has been a rarity in Dublin’s multinational tech scene. Crypto-specialist Coinbase slashed its payroll by 18pc, including people at its Dublin office. The ecommerce firm Clearco, whose CEO told Independent.ie in March it was hiring 125 extra staff to compliment the 75 people already here, just pulled out of the country altogether, retreating to North America.
Even one of the local ‘unicorn’ heroes, Intercom, has felt the cold economic winds, letting go around 20 people in Dublin as part of company-wide 5pc reduction in headcount.
So is the party over?
The IDA insists it isn’t, citing high inward investment during the first part of the year. But as has been pointed out before, those announcements were the result of decisions mostly made last year, a time when tech companies were still bulletproof growth engines.
If you’re bringing your tech company to Europe, Dublin is now the blindingly obvious place to set it up as base of regulation
Nevertheless, there are still some big multinationals that appear to be ploughing on with large-scale recruitment drives here. TikTok is the most obvious example, saying it will continue to scale up from 2,000 to 3,000 people in Dublin this year, despite the ugly economic headwinds forcing others to wind their necks in.
One might note that TikTok is a fairly unique case, being the biggest-growing social media firm in the world – even a recession can’t stop it gobbling up large chunks of Instagram's and Snapchat’s business.
Are there genuine reasons why Ireland might not be hit too badly by a tech recession? To an extent, yes. Dublin has emerged as one of the data regulation capitals of the world, a consequence of how GDPR has been mostly set up around ‘lead country’ regulators. That creates something of a magnet for internet companies, in particular. If you’re bringing your tech company to Europe, Dublin is now the blindingly obvious place to set it up as base of regulation.
The other reason is the range of companies already here. If you believe, like Stripe’s Collison brothers, that there is a long-term online and ecommerce transition under way, there are few more obvious industrial bets than the tech industry.
But what we know right now is that the sector has cooled. And by the usual starry-eyed standards of tech industry titans, there’s an unusual amount of doom and gloom around.
“If I had to bet, I'd say that this might be one of the worst downturns that we've seen in recent history,” Mark Zuckerberg recently told staff.