Ireland’s economy is relatively small and trade-dependent and is considered one of the most globalised and open in the world. It suffered disproportionate damage following the 2008–9 global recession as a large construction and financial sector bust revealed widespread misallocation of resources – human and financial – in the preceding boom. Over 60% of construction sector employment has disappeared since 2008 and employment levels have shrunk by 15% overall.
On the positive side, unemployment – while high at 14.6% – has been stable since late 2011 and the economy is experiencing output growth – unlike other Member States in financial assistance programmes of the EU, IMF and ECB Troika. Cost-competitiveness has improved since 2008 and Ireland continues to attract both high levels of foreign direct investment and foreign human capital. In 2012, 18% of the workforce was foreign-born and 44% of foreign-born workers were graduates.
This restructuring information sheet draws on Eurofound data sources to describe recent developments in the Irish labour market. The European Restructuring Monitor (ERM) comprises a series of databases covering restructuring activity as well as related policy and legal instruments throughout Europe. Restructuring activity in 2012 tends to support the relatively positive prognosis for the Irish labour market; there were more announced job gains than losses in large-scale restructuring events. The European Jobs Monitor (EJM) uses EU Labour Force Survey (EU LFS) data to identify changing structural trends in employment by sector and occupation using various proxies of job quality. It highlights that the sharp losses in Irish employment experienced in the period 2008–10 were concentrated in the middle of the wage distribution.