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More than a quarter of jobs in Ireland ‘poor’ despite booming economy and labour shortages

Report recommends further provision for parental leave and more sectoral bargaining

More than a quarter of jobs in Ireland can be described as poor despite the booming economy and ongoing labour shortages, according to a report on the quality of employment.

Women, younger workers and the less well educated feature prominently among those in these poorer jobs, according to the report published by the Nevin Economic Research Institute and UCD, which is based on what is described as the “first major national survey of job quality in Ireland”.

Drawing on data from the Working in Ireland Survey 2021, Prof John Geary and Dr Lisa Wilson categorised jobs based on a mix of economic and other measures such as pay, career prospects and job security as well as how respondents rated the employment they were in under a long list of headings.

Overall, they found that while more than a fifth of jobs (21 per cent) could be considered high quality, well paid and secure, more than a quarter (27 per cent) were precarious and mostly poorly paid.


Almost half of these poorer jobs include what those doing them regard as an excessive element of control, with employees closely monitored and having little say in how their work is performed.

Women were far more likely to be in such roles, many of them in sectors such as hospitality, care and retail. Jobs in the entertainment sector, however, were also found to be particularly prone to precariousness.

By contrast, the information, communications and technology sector, much of it involving overseas employers, and the professions and scientific and administrative roles were found to be areas in which good jobs and high levels of satisfaction were most commonly found.

Men were three times as likely to be found doing jobs in this top tier, in part because they are often associated with long hours, factors that commonly act as a bar to women due to various caring responsibilities.

The authors suggest a range of measures, some involving policy shifts by Government, and others entailing changes in management approaches by employers, that may have the potential to increase not just the proportion of women in better jobs but also the levels of job satisfaction experienced across the workforce.

The Government could make further moves to provide for parental leave, the authors suggest, but the report also contends that a greater emphasis on sectoral bargaining could help to ensure minimum standards are adhered to across particular sectors.

In addition, they argue employers can help themselves, pointing to the example of initiatives by organisations in the pharmacy sector in the US that helped keep more women in well paid and desirable roles.

“Gender differences in the length of working time is key,” says Dr Wilson. “Women clearly are more likely to work part-time because that’s the only way that they can make all commitments fit. There are only so many hours in the day.

“Men are, as we know, much less likely to work part-time. For men to do so more, they’d have to give up much of what they’ve come to accept as conditions that just come with having a job. They’d have to just downgrade their expectations.”

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times