Earnings and security: what makes one job more attractive than another

Housing and property market are crippling younger workers, says economist

“The answer to what makes one job more attractive than another is universal and timeless: it is about earnings and security,” says Ciarán Nugent, an economist at the Nevin Economic Research Institute, a think tank that is supported by the major trade unions. “If you are having trouble recruiting staff, it’s not because there’s something new about this generation or its work ethic.

“The labour shortages are most acute in hospitality, which is one of the least well-paid sectors, and most likely to be on minimum wage, temporary and insecure.

“We have been in a cost-of-living crisis for five to six years now, and the headline inflation rate affects everyone. The housing and property market are crippling younger workers and making it very difficult to live in the city and to plan for a future – even for high-paid workers in sectors like IT.”

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs posits that people will always take care of the basic needs – food and shelter – before they work on realising their wider goals. But with shelter increasingly unaffordable due to the cost of rents and of accommodation shortages, it makes wages all the more important for graduates.

Nugent says that the balance of power between employer and employee has shifted, but this does not mean all the power is with employees.

“Employers may not be getting as many applications for every vacancy: instead of 30, they might be getting 10. There may be competition in some high-end sectors for areas like IT and finance, but we still import a lot of our labour skills, particularly in IT.

“There are wider structural issues facing workers, and a lot of graduates would prefer if wages were kept as they were but the cost of living, housing, the health system, childcare and commuting times were addressed.”