Over the past twenty years, globally there has been a ‘polarisation’ of the labour market with middle paying jobs being hollowed out. However, during the construction boom the opposite pattern was seen in Ireland. This raised the question; did the construction boom mask underlying trends in the Irish labour market?
It is found that since the recession above average falls in the number of employees were found in the skilled trades occupations; administrative and secretarial occupations; and elementary occupations; while employment is actually up for managers, directors and senior officials; professional occupations, and associate professional and technical occupations.
Though there is a lack of wage data available, the data that is available is consistent with Ireland following a pattern of polarisation, with employment and wage increases for those at the top, a hollowing out of middle paying jobs; and employment increases for those at the bottom, with wages largely influenced by institutional factors for these workers. These processes were already evident during the 2000s, but were masked by the increase in construction employment.
Over the coming years it is probable that there will be a continued expansion of employment for the higher paid, and stagnation or declines for those in middle paying occupations. This leads to a requirement for in-work training especially for those in clerical positions at risk of losing their jobs, to help workers up-skill and take advantage of new job opportunities. Also, consistent with international evidence, institutional support will continue to be necessary to protect the wages of lower paid workers.