Ireland must push through ‘labour pains’ to deliver growth


Ireland is set for growth across its energy, utilities, and transport sectors over the next decade, a new report suggests.  

The latest Irish Market View, by Mace, points to a ‘healthy’ pipeline of work within the infrastructure sector – but its delivery hinges on an influx of new workers. 

While there have been recorded dips in output in residential and non-residential sectors, the latest economic data highlights civil engineering has grown “strongly”, according to the firm’s findings.   

A 6.9% increase in civil engineering production in Q1 of this year was followed by a 5.8% rise in Q2, pointing to “an environment ready to benefit from a funding injection”.    

Offshore wind energy is an area of “specific opportunity”, said Mace, backed by Ireland’s plan to generate seven gigawatts by 2030 and 37 gigawatts by 2050. 

Investment in this area could also create a positive ripple effect throughout the Irish supply chain, the report states, resulting in upskilling and more investment in other industries including turbine manufacturing and electricity grid connection.    

‘Labour pains’ 

“The situation is not without its challenges,” the report states. “While upskilling will come, the Irish labour market isn’t currently set up to deliver the pipeline of work.” 

Low unemployment levels, combined with the number of people working in construction jumping to its highest level since 2008, leaves “little room for expansion”. 

It will likely require a “compelling case to migrant workers” if Ireland is to benefit from potential growth in the infrastructure sector.  

Expert comment 

“Ireland’s infrastructure market certainly has challenges ahead, but if it can mitigate these in the short-to-medium-term, the long-term prize is considerable,” said Frank Randles, country director for Ireland, Mace Consult. “We measured the scope of the Irish built environment opportunity in a research paper we recently published, with Ireland placing third in our global construction index. The data backs up the findings of our H2 Market View and is evidence of Ireland’s status as a booming market for construction and infrastructure.” 

Andy Beard, global head of cost and commercial management, added: “While the current situation for the construction industry in Ireland is one where production has fallen recently, we are much more confident about how the sector will fare in the more medium-term.  

“There is an incredibly large pipeline and, with the government enjoying a remarkable surplus, this is only likely to increase.” 

“However, for the moment, some of the fragility of the sector is due to inflation and a tight labour market, and if the government chooses to spend even greater sums, then this could trigger renewed inflationary problems.” 

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