Unemployment Labour supply Social partnership Labour market policies
Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland
Walsh, Brendan M. 'The transformation of the Irish labour market: 1980-2003'. - Dublin: Journal of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland,Vol. XXXIII, 2003/2004, pp83-115
Journal of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland Vol. XXXIII 2003/2004
Traditionally characterised as a labour-surplus economy, Ireland was transformed
during the 1990s. An impressive rate of employment growth led to a reduction in the
unemployment rate from 15.7% to 4% between 1988 and 2004. Over the same period, labour
force participation rates rose markedly and emigration was replaced by a rising net inflow of
population. The improvements in labour market outcomes were widely spread across regions,
age groups, and educational levels. Employment in agriculture and traditional industrial
sectors continued to decline but rapid employment growth occurred in newer manufacturing
sectors such as electronics, pharmaceuticals and medical instrumentation, construction,
tourism and internationally traded financial sectors. This paper attributes the remarkable
transformation of the Irish labour market to a combination of favourable demand side shocks,
an elastic labour supply, a growing stock of human capital and a successful return to
centralised wage bargaining. The role of structural labour market reforms is discussed and it
is argues that their role in the transformation of the labour market was relatively minor.
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