Linked to Ireland’s export orientated economy, the Irish labour market is best described as ‘polarised’ with middle paying jobs having being hollowed out.
Irish workers are more likely to be employed as ‘professionals’ or in sales and service occupations than their European counterparts. Irish employment is concentrated in the service sector, in both relatively high paying export orientated services, and relatively low paying services more geared to the domestic economy. Irish labour costs are below the average when compared to peer countries. Despite manufacturing accounting for a large share of reported economic output in Ireland, the proportion of workers employed in manufacturing is actually below the Western European average. Between 2007 and 2012 there has been a large shift towards employment of those with a third level education.
Two particularly prominent features of the Irish labour market are the high proportion of those in employment with a third level degree and the low level of labour market participation for women aged 35 and over, in particular such women without a third level education. Policies directed at enabling such women to participate in the labour market have the ability to increase Ireland’s economic potential.