Ireland at a Glance
Working 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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