Employment prospects


Although Ireland is one of the few countries in the world which is keen to attract new workers from abroad – most countries positively discourage them – that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily easy to find a job there.

Ireland has a relatively small labour market and there’s a lot of competition for the best paid jobs, although in certain industries where skilled staff are in short supply it’s possible to pick and choose from an abundance of vacancies.

However, although some people don’t find it easy to find employment, there are, in fact, relatively few stories of failure and only a small number of new migrants with good job skills fail to find a job (the unemployment rate among skilled migrants is much lower than the national average). Most people who are prepared to work hard and adapt to the Irish way of doing things find that they do better in their job or career there than they would at home. Nevertheless, it’s essential to have a plan of action, do your homework before arrival and (if necessary) be prepared to change your plans as you go along.

Whereas only a few decades ago, many young people sought a ‘job for life’, today people in their 20s and 30s don’t expect to stay with the same employer for much more than two years (though some employers are now offering three and five-year ‘packages’ in an attempt to recoup their investment in recruiting and training new staff).

Ireland has also witnessed a movement away from restricted job definitions to more generalised role descriptions. Most significantly there has been a major shift in the economy away from agriculture towards manufacturing and, especially, service industries. Although many workers have been retrained, not all have been able to make the necessary transition and job vacancies in tele-services, software and electronics manufacturing, nursing and healthcare, pharmaceuticals and medical products, automotive and aerospace engineering, business and financial services, construction and retailing in particular have multiplied in recent years. In fact, in the first four of these areas there’s now a chronic shortage of skilled workers.


Tele-services include technical support for computer and software customers, selling financial and marketing services or other goods, and making reservations (e.g. hotels, flights). Ireland is now the European leader in call centres and employment in this sector is set to rise from 7,000 to 12,000 between 2001 and 2003. Candidates must be fluent in English and at least one other European language (German is preferred, then French, Italian and Spanish). A Diploma in Tele-Services can be taken in Ireland.

Companies in this sector include American Airlines, AOL Bertelsmann, Best Western, Compaq, Corel, Creative Labs, Digital, Dell, Fexco, Gateway 2000, Global Reservations, Hertz, IBM, ICT Eurotel, Iomega, Jetphone, Korean Air, Lafferty Group, McQueen, Oracle, Radisson Hotels, Ryanair, Software Spectrum, UPS and US Robotics.


Ireland is now the world’s largest exporter of software (having recently overtaken the USA!). From a handful of companies a decade ago, there are now over 750 software firms in Ireland employing more than 23,000 people, with a target of 40,000 to be employed by the year 2002. This has created an unprecedented demand for employees with appropriate skills, both in software producing companies and in other organisations who use computers. In 1997 the government introduced an action plan on skills, undertaking to add 1,000 extra places to software degree programmes, although a recent study carried out by FÁS predicts that the shortfall in computing skills will continue even if Irish colleges achieve the target of doubling their annual output of graduates over the next three years.

The key role is in software manufacture is the developer/engineer, who creates new products. A computer-science degree isn’t necessary but maths and languages are useful, as well as technical skills and some sort of technology-related qualification. In particular there’s a huge demand for C++ and Java/DB developers, systems administrators, location software testers and IT analysts. Employment is expected to rise from 15,000 to 25,000 between the years 2000 and 2003.

Companies in this sector include Admiral, Aldiscon, Accenture (formerly Andersen Consulting), CBT, Claris, Compufast Software, Corel, Credo Software, Delphi Software, Digital, ESBI Computing, Ericsson, Euristix, Expert Edge Computer Systems, Hitachi, IBM/Lotus, ICL, Iona Technologies, Kindle Banking Systems/Misys, Lendac Data Systems, Microsoft, Oracle, Premier Information Systems, Priority Data, Quay Financial Software, Siemens Nixdorf, Silicon & Software Systems, Statistical Solutions, Vision Computing and Xilinx.


Some 7,000 new jobs were created in electronics manufacturing in 2000, bringing the total number employed in this sector to around 62,000. Ireland’s seven universities and 12 institutes of technology have recently increased their student intake in an attempt to cope with the expected demand for people with electrical, mechanical, production, manufacturing and engineering skills and knowledge of metals and plastics. A minimum qualification is Leaving Certificate maths (or the equivalent) and there are opportunities for specialists and multi-skilled workers.

Companies include Alps Electric, American Power Conversion, Analog Devices, Apple Computers, AT&T, Avid Technology, Bootstrap, Courns, Cabletron Creative Labs, Connaught Electronics, Cornel Electronics, Dovatron, EICON, EMC, Ericsson, Europlex Manufacturing, Fujitsu Isotec, General Electric, General Instruments, Hewlett Packard, Hi-Tech Electronics, Hitachi-Koki, Hormann Electronics, IBM, Intel, Irish Printed Circuits, Kostal, Lake Communications, LG Group, Lucent Technologies, Madge Networks, Matsushita Kotobuki, Maxtor, Mentec International, Mitsumi, Mitsubishi Chemical, Motorola, Nortel, Northern Telecom, Philips, Quaestor Analytic, Quantum, SCI, Seagate Technology, Sensormatic, Siemens, Sigma Wireless Technologies, Silicon Systems Design, Stratus, Sun Microsystems, 3Com, Trintech Manufacturing, Westinghouse and Xilinx.

Nursing & Healthcare

Ireland’s nursing shortage is particularly acute in the Dublin area and the government recently announced measures aimed at attracting back nurses who had left the profession (11,000 nurses are registered as ‘inactive’) or work abroad and encouraging those who work part-time to work full time. In other parts of the country, doctors are in short supply and an extra 1,000 consultants are also needed. Specialist nurse training courses are being created in Cork, Waterford and Limerick, and fees for ‘back to nursing’ courses have been abolished.

Pharmaceuticals & Medical Products

Ireland is a major base for the development and manufacture of pharmaceuticals and medical products, where there has been rapid growth in recent years: 2,500 new jobs were created in 1996 and a further 1,500 in 1997. Nine of the world’s top ten pharmaceutical companies and ten of the world’s top 15 medical products’ companies have plants in Ireland.

Pharmaceuticals companies include Akzo Pharma, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Elan, Eli Lilly, E. Merck, FMC, Forest Laboratories, Fujitsawa, Ivax, Johnson & Johnson, Leo Laboratories, Schering-Plough, SmighKline Beecham, Warner Lambert, Wyeth Medica and Yamanouchi. Medical products companies include Abbott, Allergan, Bausch & Lomb, Baxter, Bayer Diagnostics, Becton Dickinson, Beiersdorf, Boston Scientific, Braun, CF Bard, Hollister, Howmedica, Mallinckrodt, Millipore, Olympus, Organon Teknika, Puritan Bennett, Sherwood Medical, Welch-Allyn American Home Products and Vistakon.

Automotive & Aerospace Engineering

Another growing sector in which designers, engineers and toolmakers are required is automotive and aerospace engineering. Companies include ABB, Alcatel Cable, Alcoa, Fujikura, Allied Signal, AO Smith, Beru, Betatherm, Bijur Lubrication, Bruss, Cooper Industries, Crown Equipment, Dahlstrom, Donnelly Mirrors, Elasto Metall, Emerson Electric, General Monitors, General Motors, General Signal, Groschopp, Henniges, Jacobs Engineering, Kostal, Kromberg & Schubert, Lapple, Legrand, Liebherr, Menvier Swaine, Mitsubishi Belting, Moog, Ohshima, Packo, Pauwels, Pratt & Whitney, Radiac Abrasives, Sifco Turbine, Simon Engineering, Snap-Tite, Thermo King, Trac Tech, Volex, Wavin, Westinghouse, Wilo and Woco.

Financial Services

More than 800 of the world’s leading financial institutions have established operations within Dublin’s International Financial Services Centre, which was founded in 1987. Activities include banking, fund and corporate treasury management, insurance and aircraft leasing. The number of jobs in this sector increased by 5,000 to 50,000 between 1997 and 2000 and there are opportunities for junior fund administrators and fund managers as well as customer service, IT and e-commerce staff.


The Irish construction industry has been growing steadily since the mid-1990s, reaching a peak of 14 per cent in 1997 and settling to around 7.5 per cent in 2000. Almost one in ten Irish workers are now involved in construction. With planned improvements to roads, railways, airports, water treatment plants as well as an expected continuation of the housing boom, high growth is expected to continue for several more years. Opportunities exist for school-leavers (e.g. plant operators), apprentices (e.g. electricians, joiners, plumbers, carpenters and painters) and graduates (e.g. architects and surveyors). There are vacancies nation-wide in all disciplines.


With the continued boom in consumer spending, a record number of new retail outlets are opening and jobs in the retail sector are forecast to rise from the 1998 level of 160,000 to 200,000 by 2003.

Other Sectors

Other areas in which growth is expected in the early part of the century, albeit at a slower rate than those listed above, are consumer products, tourism, agriculture, telecommunications, teaching, accountancy, food production and catering. There is a particular demand for PAs, secretaries and legal secretaries as well as people with accounting experience.

Further reading

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