One-third of architects laid off in last year, survey finds


ALMOST ONE-THIRD of Ireland’s architects have been made redundant over the last 12 months because of the slowdown in the economy and the collapse of the housing market, a new study has found.

The number of architects out of work will rise as high as 41 per cent by the end of March, and the problems could get worse as Government spending on infrastructure contracts further, the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) has warned.

RIAI director John Graby said the study offers a clear picture of where the industry is, following the collapse of the housing market. He said these developments have hit large and small firms alike and the behaviour of the Government is exacerbating problems of architects.

“The Government and some Government agencies are not paying architects on time and, in some instances, they are not paying them at all,” Mr Graby said.

“They have asked us not to send invoices because they don’t have the money at the time, which catches architects’ offices doubly because they still have to pay VAT on the invoices issued.”

Mr Graby said a great deal of public sector work is “paused” and that very little building in the sector is continuing because of the fall-off in tax returns.

“It is a difficult situation because practices need to know what is going to happen and what is not going to happen,” he said.

The survey, conducted last month on behalf of the RIAI by Millward Brown IMS, was responded to by 233 of the 559 registered architecture firms in the Republic. It found some 840 architects and architectural technicians have been made redundant from those companies alone, with that figure expected to rise before the end of March.

The RIAI said 2,800 architects and architectural technicians were employed last January before the country’s economic situation worsened, but that 1,200 of those have since been made redundant, with many firms planning more cuts.

Paul Clerkin, of architects’ website and forum, said redundancies have caused a “wholesale negative feeling in the architectural workplace”, with few opportunities to find work.

“Last year, there were clearly options to work abroad. Jobs in the Middle East were reasonably plentiful, but they seem to have dried up now too,” he said.

“Our job board had hundreds of vacant positions worldwide last summer, now we’re in single figures. There may, of course, still be jobs out there but, in an employers’ market, you don’t need to advertise the position as much.”

Mr Graby called on the Government to develop a plan of action for the sector and said sustainable development may be one area that could aid the industry’s cause.