Category Archives: STEM

20/6/15: Irish Employment by Sector: Latest Data

Here are the latest stats for Irish employment across sectors, based on the EHECS Earnings Hours and Employment Costs Survey Quarterly reported by CSO:

Overall, there were 1,574,800 people employed across all sectors of economy in 1Q 2015, which represents an increase of 2.67% y/y. In 4Q 2014 y/y rise was 2.33%. Current level of employment is 9.9% below 1Q 2008, but since 1Q 2011 (during the tenure of current Government) the economy added some 59,700 jobs - a rate of jobs creation of 14,925 per annum. The rate of jobs creation did accelerate in the last twelve months: between 1Q 2013 and Q1 2014, the economy added 26,800 jobs and between 1Q 2014 and 1Q 2015 it added 41,000 jobs. Nonetheless, compared to 1Q 2008 there were 192,400 fewer workers in the economy at the end of 1Q 2015.

Here is the summary of changes (%) between 2008 average (do note this), 1Q 2014 and 1Q 2015 by sector:

Our 'smart' and 'knowledge' economy currently operates at employment levels in Information & Communication sector of some 59,800 (quite low, surprisingly, given the hype about the sector growth). And this represents an increase of only 1,800 (+3.1%) y/y, and a drop on 1Q 2008 levels of 5,000 jobs. Another category of 'smart'/'knowledge' workers is Professional, scientific and technical activities. Here things are even worse. Total level of employment in this category at the end of 1Q 2015 stood at 79,000, which represents a drop of 5,100 y/y (-6.1%) and a decline of 2,600 on 1Q 2008.

This dovetails with the evidence on STEM-related employment presented here:

Overall, only two areas of activity have managed to post higher 1Q 2015 employment levels than 1Q 2015: Education (+3,900) as well as Human Health and Social Work (+19,000).

20/6/15: STEM to Bull: Time to Rethink Irish Tech Propaganda?

So we are being told there are brilliant opportunities available in employment in Sciences, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (STEM) fields in Ireland and that the demand for workers in these sectors is outstripping anything anything else.

As always, reality is a bit more complex than the wholesale sloganeering suggests.

Here is the latest data for annual average earnings by activity:

As you can see from the above, STEM-related occupations are not exactly homogeneous... Take Human Health, where there is very severe rationing of medical degrees and education opportunities coinciding with falling earnings. And look at non-STEM sectors, like Finance, where there are growing earnings.

Next, take pharma sector - a core STEM sector where, allegedly, there are plentiful employment opportunities in Ireland. Per Enterprise Ireland: "Employment in the sector has grown from 5,200 in 1988 to 25,300 in 2010" ( Which sounds impressive.

But, here is the definitive CSO data (latest we have is 2013):

Between 2006 and 2013, employment in the sector (primarily containing pharma sub-sector) has dropped, not risen, going from 29,010 in 2006 to 23,948 in 2013. And do note: Enterprise Ireland document linked above attributes all jobs in the Checmical & Pharmaceutical sector in 2010 to Pharma sub-sector. Which, of course, is clearly not the case.

Do we really want to treat STEM as a 'panacea' for incoming new students and for the economy? Or should we stop propagandising individual sets of skills and support students best matching their ability and interest to educational offers? After all, call me old-fashioned, but a good writer is infinitely more productive (and socially valuable) than a bad engineer or a discouraged coder.