Category Archives: quality of jobs

12/12/19: Ireland’s Jobs Creation Track Record: Raising Some Questions

Doing some research on the state of precariat in modern labor markets, I came across some interesting data from the 'poster country' of the post-GFC recovery: Ireland.

Ireland's economy and its recovery from the crisis are both characterised by the huge role played by the internationally-trading multinational corporations. In recent years, these companies have been gearing up for the upcoming OECD-led BEPS reforms (more on this coming up next month in my usual contribution to the Manning Financial publication, but you can read academic-level analysis o the BEPS here: The strategic shift this entails involves MNCs domiciling into Ireland intangible property and new business functions to create a larger 'footprint' in the economy. With this, employment in MNCs operations in Dublin and elsewhere boomed.

Why is this important? Because the main story of the Celtic Tiger revival has been about the aforementioned jobs creation and accompanying dramatic drop in official unemployment. Less covered in the media and politicians' statements, over the same period of time as 'jobs creation' was allegedly booming, Irish labour force participation remained well below pre-crisis levels (meaning there were more discouraged unemployed who stopped being counted as unemployed). Even less attention has been paid to the quality of jobs creation.

The above chart partially reflects the latter concern. It shows that full-time employment as a a share of total working age population has improved from the bottom of the series at the peak of the recession, but the rebound has been largely incomplete. Similarly (not shown in the chart) the percentage of those in part-time employment as a share of total number of those in employment has remained above pre-crisis levels. Over 1998 through the first half of 2008 (the pre-crisis period), that share averaged 17.5 percent. This rose to above 23 percent in the years of the crisis (2H 2008 - 2013). It remained at around 23 percent through 4Q 2016, and has declined to around 20.3-20.5 percent since then. This too signals that the quality of jobs being added even in the mature stage of the recovery is still lagging the quality of jobs in the pre-crisis period.

Now, imagine what these figures would have been were it not for the MNCs latest tax shenanigans...

30/7/18: Ireland’s employment data: Official Stats vs Full Time equivalents

Based on the most current data for Irish employment and working hours, I have calculated the difference between the two key time series, the Full Time Equivalent employment (FTE employment) and the officially reported employment.

Let’s take some definitions on board first:
  • Defining those in official employment: I used CSO data for “Persons aged 15 years and over in Employment (Thousand) by Quarter, Sex, and Usual Hours Worked”
  • Defining FTE employment, is used data on hours per week worked, using 40-44 hours category as the defining point for FTE. 
  • A note of caution, FTE is an estimated figures, based on mid-points of working time intervals reported by the CSO.

Based on these definitions, in 1Q 2018, there were 2.2205 million people in official employment in Ireland. However, 51,800 of these worked on average between 1 and 9 hours per week, and another 147,300 worked between 10 and 19 hours per week. And so on. Adjusting for working hours differences, my estimated Full Time Equivalent number of employees in Ireland in 1Q 2018 stood at 1.94223 million, or 278,271 FTE employees less than the official employment statistics suggested. The gap between the FTE employment and officially reported number of employees was 12.53%.

I defined the above gap as “Employment Hours Gap” (EHG): a percentage difference between those in FTE and those in official employment. A negative gap close to zero implies FTE employment is close to the official employment, which indicates that only a small proportion of those in employment are working less then full-time hours.

All the data is plotted in the chart below

Per chart above, the following facts are worth noting:
  1. In terms of official employment numbers, Ireland’s economy has not fully recovered from the crisis. The pre-Crisis peak official employment stands at 2.2522 million in 3Q 2007. The bad news is: as of 1Q 2018, the same measure stands at 2.2205 million.
  2. In terms of FTE employment, the peak pre-Crisis levels of employment stood at 1.9261 million in 3Q 2017. This was regained in 3Q 2017 at 1.9444 million. So the good news is that the current recovery is at least complete now, after a full decade of misery, when it comes to estimated FTE employment.

The improved quality of employment as reflected in better mix of FT and  >FT employees in the total numbers employed, generated in the recent recovery, is highlighted in the chart as well, as the gap has been drawing closer to zero.

One more thing worth noting here. The above data is based on inclusion of the category of employees with “Variable Hours”, which per CSO include “persons for whom no usual hours of work are available”. In other words, zero-hours contract workers who effective do not work at all are included with those workers who might work one week 45 hours and another week 25 hours. So I adjust my FTE estimated employment to exclude from both official and FTE employment figures workers on Variable Hours. The resulting change in the EHG gap is striking:

Per above, while the recovery has been associated with a modestly improving working hours conditions, it is now clear that excluding workers on Variable Hours’ put the current level of EHG still below the conditions prevailing in the early 2000s. More interestingly, we can see a persistent trend in terms of rising / worsening gap from the end of the 1990s through to the end of the pre-Crisis boom at the end of 2007, and into the collapse of the Irish economy through 2012. The post-Crisis improvement in Employment Hours Gap has been driven by the outflows of workers from the Variable Hours’ to other categories, but when one controls for this category of workers (a category that is effectively ‘catch-all-others’ for CSO) the improvements become less dramatic.

Overall, FTE estimates indicate some problems remaining in the Irish economy when it comes to the dependency ratios. Many analysts gauge dependency ratios as a function of total population ratio to those in official employment. The problem, of course, is that the economic capacity of someone working close to 40 hours per week or above is not the same as that of someone working less than 20 hours per week.

Note: More on dependency ratios next.