The anatomy of employment in Ireland: How has the structure of the labour market changed from crisis to crisis

Posted on April 15, 2021 at 02:55 PM

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Café Michel 100 rue Ordener - Julie70

Paul Goldrick-Kelly Dr Lisa Wilson NERI


This paper examines the effects of automation and the green transition on employment between the last crisis and the onset of the pandemic. While the most gloomy predictions of mass job losses due to these forces haven’t come to pass, workers within some sectors may face challenges.

Labour Market

This study examines how the anatomy of employment in sectoral and occupational terms has been changing in terms of the structure and nature of jobs in Ireland from the 2008 Global financial crisis up until the crisis precipitated by Covid-19. In particular, we focus upon the effects of the major present and forecast structural trends of automation and the transition to a less carbon intensive society between 2007/8 and 2019. In the case of automation, the evidence for change is somewhat mixed. The data do not indicate net employment losses, although there is evidence that would support theories that covert technological unemployment has taken place to some extent. Employment also appears to have been biased to high-skilled, non-routine abstract and service work, consistent with labour substitution theories positing greater displacement where work had higher proportions of routine tasks which are more readily automatable.

Where the green transition is concerned, we find that such a structural shift is more prospective than currently in evidence. In the Irish case, the data suggest that the Republic of Ireland may have begun a process of decoupling economic activity and employment from emissions, though this is still not occurring at the requisite rate. Ireland also appears to be showing growth in terms of “green employment” according to more restrictive industry-based definitions of green jobs, and other occupation/skills-based definition would likely show a more significant employment profile.

While our examination of recent labour market trends is not suggestive of mass unemployment arising from these structural forces, these trends may have more significant/disruptive implications for certain workers. In light of these differential impacts, a common Just Transition style approach could ensure that broader cohorts benefit from these shifts.

AuthorsPaul Goldrick-KellyDr Lisa Wilson

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