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Working in Ireland
Find out how to get a job and work in Ireland
Many expats have been attracted by life in Ireland, especially during the era of the “Celtic Tiger”. While the nation has severely felt the effects of the recession, there are still some possibilities for expats. Read more about the economy and business culture on InterNations GO!!
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Employment in Ireland
- Although the Irish economy is no longer the “Celtic Tiger”, it is growing again.
- It may be difficult to get an employment permit, depending on what sector you work in and what you earn.
- Business in Ireland functions much the same as in other Western societies, but there are taboos topics you should avoid.
Ireland’s Economic Transformation
If you consider the focus of the Irish economy today, it might come as a surprise that about a generation ago, the majority of the population working in Ireland did so in the agricultural sector. As the economic climate slowly began to change, the public sector grew in importance and a third of the people working at the time found employment there.
Having overcome an economic crisis in the 1980s, the government introduced measures to make working in Ireland both profitable and sustainable again. After cuts in taxes and public spending, the focus shifted towards enticing private companies to set up shop in Ireland. The plan proved fruitful, and with more and more international companies setting up offices and subsidiaries, the nation quickly rose to a place among the wealthiest members in the OECD.
The period of unprecedented economic growth and rapid change toward a modern, trade-dependent knowledge economy is known as the “Celtic Tiger”. With more multinational corporations, the country experienced a sharp increase in the number of expats living and working in Ireland. This period showed a pivotal change for the Irish economy, as it became a competitive and attractive market.
The nation’s membership in the EEA also attracted countless European immigrants to Ireland, and Dublin particularly. Ireland was ranked the second most globalized country worldwide in the 2013 KOF Index of Globalization.
Effects of the Global Crisis
However, Ireland was among the first European countries to experience the harsh effects of the economic crisis of 2008/2009. The many people working in Ireland’s construction industry (about 12% of the population at that time) were hit particularly hard when the property bubble burst.
With unemployment rising rapidly and the nation on the brink of financial ruin, the government introduced rules to ensure that Irish nationals and EEA residents are given priority for new jobs. You will find specific information on this topic on the next page of this article.
However, although those living and working in Ireland endured a grim period during the recession, the country’s economy is beginning to recover. At the time of writing, it is in fact the fastest growing economy in the EU. The economy grew by 6.9% in 2015 and is predicted to grow by 4.5% in 2016. The unemployment rate — while still not back to pre-crisis levels — is falling again, with 2015 seeing 9.4%. The presence of a strong and growing IT sector in Ireland has also helped to bolster the economy, attracting more people to work in Ireland. The economy is predicted to continue improving, meaning your expat dreams are not entirely out of reach.
National Economic Pillars
As in many other industrialized countries, Ireland’s agriculture has long been overtaken in importance by services and manufacturing. While approximately 66% of the nation’s total area is used for agriculture, only about 5% of the population found a job working in Ireland’s agricultural sector in 2011.
Today, most employees make a living in the nation’s large service sector. Exports are particularly important for the country’s GDP. Ireland is one of the world’s leading producers and exporters of pharmaceuticals as well as computer hardware and software, and for those who want to move to, and begin working in Ireland, these are key sectors in which to seek employment.
The wealth of natural resources is another important mainstay. Lead, zinc, gypsum (a sulfate mineral used for fertilizer), limestone, and natural gas are the main focuses of the mining industry. Ireland ranks highly when compared to many other nations, with respect to both the number of sites and the tonnage extracted. As almost every region in the country has mineral deposits, working in Ireland’s mining industry has proved both sustainable and profitable for many people.
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Doing Business in Ireland
A Tightening of Expat Employment Rules
As an effect of the economic crisis and the rise in unemployment that followed in its wake, the Irish government altered their policies in regards to immigrant workers. The most important change is the extension of the labor market needs test in June 2009. The objective of this test is to ensure that no jobs are filled by non-EEA nationals if there are capable candidates available from within Ireland and the EEA.
Any vacancy has to be advertised with the FÁS/EURES employment network for eight weeks and in local and national newspapers for six days. Only if no qualified applicants from Ireland or the EEA can be found from advertising within this time span, can applicants from other countries be considered.
Further Restrictions on Employment Permits
Apart from this measure addressing the national and EU job market, the frame for employment permits has been altered to exclude several additional occupations, trades, and lines of work. This applies, for example, to general laborers, daycare personnel and nannies, domestic helpers, various tradespeople, retail sales workers, and people working in the hospitality industry. A full list of ineligible occupations can be found on the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation website.
Starting a new life in Ireland can be exceedingly hard for expats. The main reason for this is thatno employment permits are issued for occupations with an annual salary below 30,000 EUR.
Thus, being a highly qualified specialist in areas like ICT, healthcare, engineering, and the natural sciences, and/or hailing from the EEA will provide you with the best chances. Everyone else may have to overcome some serious obstacles. For more detailed information on work permits, please refer to our article on moving to Ireland.
If you are located within the EEA, the aforementioned online platforms FÁS and EURES should be one of your first stops when looking for employment in Ireland, provided, of course, that you are not simply transferred to an Irish subsidiary of your current company.
If you are from outside of Europe, you may find it slightly more difficult to find employment in Ireland for the reasons stated above. It is possible though, you will just need to be prepared for the process to take a little longer.
Job Hunting on Location
If you are serious about your wish to live and work in Ireland, we recommend flying over on a visitor visa, getting an Irish pre-paid SIM card, and personally applying for available jobs in your line of work. As the job market in Ireland is generally heavily focused on Dublin, the city might be your best starting point. Personal presence will drastically improve prospects of being considered, but it still is no surefire way to secure employment. You might have to take a chance.
Since the Irish economy shows good signs of recuperation after the harsh blows in 2008 and 2009, the demand and opportunities for expats might improve once again. Unemployment has reduced from its 2012 peak of 15.1% to 9.4% in 2015. As emigration from Ireland picked up at an almost alarming speed during the crisis, the employment gaps this “brain-drain” left might also be filled with skilled expats.
Ireland’s Business Culture
Ireland’s Social Security System
So you have overcome the difficulties that await prospective expats in Ireland at the moment? Congratulations! Having gone through the process of finding a job in Ireland does not only reward you with invaluable working experience in a great setting, it will also provide you with a fairly extensive social security system. The services and support measures the system provides are divided into three categories:
- Social insurance payments: These payments vary depending on the time you have been contributing to the Irish Social Insurance Fund and the kind of payment you apply for. Types include jobseeker’s benefit, illness benefit, maternity benefit, invalidity pension, and state pension (retirement).
- Means tested payments: These are primarily designed for people who do not meet the requirements for the abovementioned payments. Generally speaking, they provide a reduced version of the social–insurance-based payments. As expats in Ireland usually make a decent living in a secure job, means tested payments should not apply to them.
- Universal payments: These are paid to every Irish resident regardless of occupation or income. They include child benefit, for example.
Ireland also has social security agreements with many expat “sender countries” such as Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and the USA. The bi-lateral social security agreements with said countries are especially important for securing expats’ access to state pensions, survivors’ pensions, and disability benefits.
EU/EEA citizens and Swiss nationals have their social insurance contributions and benefits secured by European law and need not worry. You can find more information about combining your social insurance contributions from your home country with those in Ireland on the Citizens Information website.
How to Avoid a Business or Social Faux Pas
Business in Ireland is done in very much the same manner as in other West European and North American societies. It is also notoriously difficult to break the good spirits of the Irish by mistake; they usually have a great sense of humor, but some general rules should still be adhered to.
Clichés and Manners
First and foremost, the Irish are aware of — and not particularly amused by — the clichés through which they are often portrayed in the media. US American movies in particular often include an Irish person of sunny disposition, a generic accent, and an indestructible liver. Although alcohol is indeed popular in Ireland, thinking of the Irish as a nation of drunkards is not only far from the truth, it is also quite offensive even when uttered jokingly.
Bragging is another mannerism that is highly unpopular with the Irish. Arrogance and exaggeration of your own grandeur might not necessarily get you into trouble, but they will probably discredit you to some extent.
The Art of Small Talk
In Ireland, it is a particularly good idea to keep religion out of small talk and business conversation. Many people in Ireland are religious (often staunchly Catholic) or have socially conservative values, so try to steer clear of potentially controversial topics such as abortion.
Once you get better acquainted or have become close friends with an Irish person, do not be alarmed if you are suddenly made fun of or attacked verbally. This is quite common among the Irish and a signal of a strong bond, strong enough to withstand the cruelest of jokes. You should reciprocate in a cheerful (and equally nonchalant) way. Do not take any of this personally or lose your good spirits.
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