Category Archives: Irish labour force

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: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3406260). 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: Broader Unemployment vs Official Unemployment: Ireland



In the first post (see above) looking at the broader measures of unemployment and dependency ratios, recall that CSO publishes several extended series for broader unemployment rates. 

The official unemployment rate at 1Q 2018 stood at 6.4 percent (well within the pre-crisis historical range of the average of 5.31 percent and the 99% confidence interval of (3.70%, 6.92%). In more simple terms, statistically, the current official unemployment rate is indistinguishable from the average rate prevailing in 1Q 1998 - 4Q 2007. Which is the good thing, implying that in official terms, Irelands economy has recovered from the crisis at last. In fact, the recovery in official terms has been attained in 4Q 2017.

However, the CSO also reports the PLS2 measure of broader unemployment. The Above analysis was based on reported PLS1 data, covering unemployed plus discouraged workers, as a percentage of the labour force. Adding to the PLS1 those in potential additional labour force (basically able bodied adults who are neither employed nor unemployed, nor discouraged, and are not in studies or formal training), the CSO gets PLS2 measure of broader unemployment. In 1Q 208 this number read 10.2% of the Labour Force, plus Potential Additional Labour Force, which was statistically higher than the pre-Crisis average of 6.1% (falling into the 99% confidence interval range of (4.39%, 7.81%). In other words, the economy has not yet recovered from the Crisis based on PLS2 broader unemployment measure.

Extending PLS2 to cover all unemployed, plus those who want a job and not seeking for reasons other than being in education or training, in 1Q 2018 the broader PLS3 unemployment measure stood at 14.2 percent, unchanged on 4Q 2017. As with PLS2, the 1Q 2018 reading for PLS3 falls well beyond the range of the pre-crisis historical average of 8.36% (with 99% confidence interval of (6.52%, 10.20%).

As noted above, by two broader unemployment measures: PS2 and PLS3, Irish economy has not recovered from the crisis, even if we take a relatively benign recovery measure of the economy reaching the pre-crisis 1Q 1998 - 4Q 2007 average rate of unemployment. 



Worse, taking 4 year moving average and a 4 year rolling standard deviation in PS3 rates, 1Q 2018 PLS3 rate of 14.2% is closer to the upper margin of the 99% confidence interval for 1Q 2018 based on prior 4 years of data (the CI is given by (9.81%, 15.63%) range). Which means that 1Q 2018 data shows no statistically significant break-out from the PLS3 broader unemployment dynamics of the past 4 years. The same holds for the 5 years MA and rolling STDEV. 

So while the official unemployment readings are showing a very robust recovery, broader measures of unemployment continue to trend in line with the economy still carrying the hefty legacy of the recent crises. 

20/6/18: Irish Labour Force Participation Rate: Persistency of a Problem


With the latest CSO data reporting on labour force participation figures for 1Q 2018, time to update the chart showing secular decline in the labour force participation rate in the country since the start of 2010:

As the chart above shows, despite low and falling unemployment, Irish labour force participation rate remains at the lows established at the start of 2010 and is not trending up. In fact, seasonal volatility in the PR has increased on recent years (since 1Q 2016), while the overall average levels remain basically unchanged, sitting at the lowest levels since the start of the millennium.

Taking ratio of those in the labour force to those outside the labour force as a proximate dependency indicator (this omits dependency of children aged less than 15), over 2000-2004 period, average ratio stood at 1.685 (there were, on average, 1.685 people seeking work or employed for each 1 person not in the labour force). This rose to 1.895 average over 2005-2009 period, before collapsing to 1.630 average since the start of 2010. Current ratio (1Q 2018) sits at 1.600, below the present period average.

While demographics and education account for much of this, overall the conclusions that can drawn from this data are quite striking: per each person staying out of the labour force for various reasons, Ireland has fewer people working or searching for jobs today than in any comparable (in economic fundamentals terms) period.

24/11/15: Over-skilled & Under-Employed: Welcome to the Brave New World of Europe


Irish policymakers are keen telling us that jobs creation has been robust and of high quality in recent years. Which, thus, begs a question: why does OECD data show Ireland as having one of the most severe mismatches between workforce skills and employment?


Apparently, based on OECD data, Irish economy is not exactly offering jobs on par with our fabled skills. And, apparently, based on OECD data, our illustrious workforce holds a big untapped potential for productivity gains that are not being realised by the inflows of MNCs and FDI and domestic economy jobs creation to-date.

OECD doesn't quite offer an Ireland-specific explanation of this paradox, but it does offer an insight as to why the same phenomenon plagues virtually all of Europe:


Apparently, the quality of firms (or their systems for allocating Human Capital or both) in Europe is just not up to par. It turns out that the Irish disease of underemployment is a European disease.

This is especially tragic, given that we have a huge over-skilling present in the economy - in basic terms, our skills levels are too high for what our economy is capable of absorbing:


Few years ago, I quipped in my Sunday Times (now defunct) column that we are heading for Unemployed PhDs crisis. It looks like we have arrived.

So welcome to the Brave New World where years in education and training and years of on-the-job experience count for zilch when it comes to affording pensions, savings and investments.

24/11/15: Over-skilled & Under-Employed: Welcome to the Brave New World of Europe


Irish policymakers are keen telling us that jobs creation has been robust and of high quality in recent years. Which, thus, begs a question: why does OECD data show Ireland as having one of the most severe mismatches between workforce skills and employment?


Apparently, based on OECD data, Irish economy is not exactly offering jobs on par with our fabled skills. And, apparently, based on OECD data, our illustrious workforce holds a big untapped potential for productivity gains that are not being realised by the inflows of MNCs and FDI and domestic economy jobs creation to-date.

OECD doesn't quite offer an Ireland-specific explanation of this paradox, but it does offer an insight as to why the same phenomenon plagues virtually all of Europe:


Apparently, the quality of firms (or their systems for allocating Human Capital or both) in Europe is just not up to par. It turns out that the Irish disease of underemployment is a European disease.

This is especially tragic, given that we have a huge over-skilling present in the economy - in basic terms, our skills levels are too high for what our economy is capable of absorbing:


Few years ago, I quipped in my Sunday Times (now defunct) column that we are heading for Unemployed PhDs crisis. It looks like we have arrived.

So welcome to the Brave New World where years in education and training and years of on-the-job experience count for zilch when it comes to affording pensions, savings and investments.