Over half of Ireland’s businesses in decline following Covid-19 lockdowns

Cross-Border trade body Intertrade Ireland says almost one in four of businesses surveyed have cut jobs

Northern Ireland lags the Republic when it comes to remote working, with 18%  of workers operating from home compared to 41%  in the South. Photograph: Getty Images

Northern Ireland lags the Republic when it comes to remote working, with 18% of workers operating from home compared to 41% in the South. Photograph: Getty Images

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More than half of Ireland’s businesses are in decline following Covid-19 lockdowns, according to cross-Border trade body Intertrade Ireland.

The organisation’s business monitor for the second quarter of the year, the period when restrictions were most severe, quantifies “the massive disruption and strain caused by Covid-19 across the island”.

Before the pandemic 42 per cent of companies were growing, but this has tumbled to just 15 per cent in the outbreak’s wake, the report, published on Monday, shows.

“More worringly, the number of businesses across the island that are in decline has jumped from 7 per cent and now stands at 53 per cent,” the agency says.

Almost one in four of businesses surveyed have cut jobs. Intertrade Ireland notes that the figures are similar to those it found at the depths of the recession prompted by a collapse in financial markets 12 years ago.

It adds that the “dizzying” speed of contraction shows the rapid action that both the Republic and Northern Ireland needed to take to combat coronavirus.

Administrations on both sides of the Border have support schemes to help small and medium-sized businesses tackle the difficulties they face.

Aidan Gough, designated officer, Intertrade Ireland, says there is growing interest in the organisation’s emergency programme. This offers companies £2,000 sterling or €2,250 to assist in assessing their current trading position, and help with cash-flow forecasting, personnel issues and managing suppliers.

Northern Ireland lags the Republic when it comes to remote working, with 18 per cent of workers operating from home compared to 41 per cent in the South.

For businesses that trade across the Border, 38 per cent of staff are working from home.

On a positive note, 73 per cent of companies say they are planning to rehire workers.

Smaller businesses cite social distancing advice, suggesting people stay two metres apart, as the biggest barrier to recovery. This is most marked in the hospitality business.

Covid-19 has also forced many companies to revise plans to meet the looming difficulties that Brexit will present. Overall just 14 per cent of businesses say they have plans in place to deal with the UK’s exit from the EU. That figure rises to 30 per cent for those who trade across the Border.

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