Unpacking the Myth of Irelands Employment Crisis

Sir, – The argument by Stephen O’Byrnes that the Irish are work-shy was strong on opinion but remarkably weak on facts.

His evidence was based on a vox pop by Charlie Bird, a discussion with a hotel manager in the midwest and the observation that there are many non-nationals working in Irish hotels but not Italy or France. To base an argument on these claims is not only irresponsible but wrong.

Ireland, the UK and Sweden were the only countries in the EU to allow full access to their labour market to new accession countries in 2004. During this period, Ireland experienced labour shortages. Between 2004 and 2007 almost 85 per cent of the additional 245,000 jobs created were filled by foreign nationals. By the end of 2007, 16 per cent of all jobs in the Irish economy were held by nationals of other countries. Over 55 per cent of these were from new EU member states.

Migrant workers accounted for 37 per cent of total employment in hotels and restaurants. This, in addition to Ireland’s flexible and liberal labour market, explains why so many non-nationals work in hotels and hospitality, not the work-shy Irish. Such conditions do not exist in France or Italy.

The logical conclusion to his argument is to replace non-national employees with Irish workers.

Not only is this morally wrong, it would contravene a whole variety of EU legislation. The past 10 years have shown that when there is demand for labour, it is actively taken up by the Irish labour force. To solve the employment crisis requires serious thinking premised on facts and evidence, not speculative and ill-informed opinion. –


Amsterdam Institute for Labour Studies,

University of Amsterdam,

The Netherlands.

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