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McCarthy wrong on manufacturing

Madam – Colm McCarthy's article 'Criticism of our tax policy the height of hypocrisy' (Sunday Independent, May 26, 2013) contains numerous erroneous assertions.

He says that most of the manufacturing jobs created in the Nineties were lost in the years after 2000 and attributes this to workers preferring to work in construction and related activities. In fact, most of the fall in manufacturing employment after 2000 was confined to just two sectors, electronics/electrical engineering and textiles/clothing. Medical devices grew by 60 per cent between 2000 and 2007, while chemicals/pharmaceuticals, metal, non-metallic and wood products also expanded.

In other words, the problem was sector-specific rather than a general malaise of the manufacturing sector. The idea that people would not take up manufacturing jobs when there was more money available in construction is based on the erroneous assumption that workers are interchangeable between those two sectors. In fact, a large proportion of the manufacturing jobs created in the Nineties were highly skilled jobs which are not open to unskilled workers. Only 400 of the 3,500 or so employees in the Apple plant in Cork are involved in making computers. The rest are involved in software, sales and support services for the firm's other units across Europe.

McCarthy states that inward investment to Europe by US multinationals has been weak for many years. However, in both 2011 and 2012, the IDA attracted more new jobs to Ireland (mostly from the US) than in any year since 2001.

McCarthy's statement that export services "have created few jobs for unemployed Irish workers" is misleading. Employment in this sector rose from less than 12,000 in 1990 to 120,000 last year. Where would these workers be if these jobs did not exist?

Dr Proinnsias Breathnach,

Department of Geography, NUI Maynooth

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