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First Impressions of the Construction Sector

12th October 2016

Employment in Ireland has exceeded 2 million for the first time since 2009, and there has been a notable increase in planning and development activity across the country. The surprise result of Britain’s decision to leave the EU certainly sent some tremors through the market, but thankfully it has had no discernible impact on the Irish construction sector so far. In fact, enquiries from UK based companies are on the rise as they are beginning to consider alternative locations within the EU.

Considering Ireland as a viable alternative to the UK makes perfectly good sense to me for various reasons. We are a highly educated English-speaking country, with 43% of working-age adults holding a third-level education. We also have a corporation tax of 12.5%, the second lowest in the EU. But most importantly, we are now, and plan to remain, part of the EU.

If you were to take a cursory glance at these facts, your first impression would probably be that Ireland is a great place for businesses to set up. Well, that’s true. Ireland is a great place for businesses. But it’s not as great for candidates.


As construction activity has picked up, the shortage of construction professionals in Ireland has become increasingly evident. While it’s true that Ireland has a well-educated population, we also have the lowest prevalence of engineering, manufacturing, and construction graduates of any OECD country, with just 11% of graduates in Ireland holding a degree in any the above areas. It’s no secret that the construction sector was one of the worst hit by the recent recession, so many employees were forced to emigrate to find work, and have yet to return home.

While activity in the construction sector has picked up again recently, there remain considerable challenges we need to overcome in order to take full advantage of the unusual situation we have found ourselves in. Cpl have had to think outside of the box to attract skilled professionals in this sector, running events throughout the UK, Australia, and mainland Europe. We have also established One Tribe, an online concierge service that aims to connect with and support Irish diaspora looking to return home. 

Our Q3 2016 Employment Monitor found that 79% of employers in the construction sector would be less likely to hire UK nationals after Brexit, far above the overall average of 60%. This could open up more opportunities for Irish diaspora looking to return home, but it doesn’t tackle the disincentives of moving to Ireland.


The rising cost of motor insurance is becoming unsustainable and is eroding our competitiveness as an economically attractive location for top talent. Whether you are a returning migrant, a Briton intent on relocating, or a project manager giving up your commercial vehicle for a new role, this cost can be off-putting. Cpl strives to manage the expectations of returning migrants and to advise them on how to retain their ‘no claims bonus’, but this is something that has to be looked at more closely by insurers and the Government.

The availability of rental accommodation in Dublin is also a major issue for talent looking to relocate to Ireland. Dublin is a great city to live in, with a great selection of tourist attractions, bars, and restaurants, but finding accommodation is a great big pain. Housing supply is increasing steadily, so we’re heading in the right direction, but candidates looking to relocate need more support in this area.

Ireland’s wildly imbalanced tax system is another problem that has been a talking point of late, with many comparisons being drawn between the different pay bands. For example, someone who earns €35,000 a year pays 10.9 times the tax of someone who earns €18,000 a year. If we are really serious about encouraging high-earning professionals to relocate to Ireland, we need a total overhaul of this haphazard and discouraging system. The Government has started to phase out USC from yesterday's budget on, which is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done if Ireland is to make a good impression on the global stage.

The combination of these factors has made Ireland a pretty expensive alternative to the UK for a candidate. Recruitment consultants often act as therapists for many candidates who need support or wish to air their grievances. As a recruitment consultant in the construction sector, I have often found myself taking on the role of an Insurance Broker or a Lettings Agent as well. There is only so long that this can continue before the cost of living in Ireland begins to hinder our economic progress. It may be time for employers to start thinking outside of the box and offering relocation packages in order to ease the initial financial burden on candidates.

We are constantly thinking of new and innovative ways to attract talent, but at the end of the day, it needs to be financially viable for the candidate. If we are to continue attracting top talent to Ireland, we need a cost base conducive to this. Ireland is one of the most attractive locations in Europe for multinationals to put down their roots, but in order for us to take full advantage of Brexit, we need to make Ireland one of the most attractive locations for talent to put down theirs too.

Want to know more?

See how other sectors of the Irish market are performing in our Q3 2016 Employment Monitor. 

View Report
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About the Author

Shane Grennan

Senior Recruitment Consultant


Shane Grennan is a Senior Recruitment Specialist in the Cpl Construction & Property Team. His primary focus is the recruitment of Property Professionals, Building Service Engineers and Civil & Structural Engineers. Shane holds a BA in Economics & Politics and an MSc International Management & Global Business and is currently undertaking an MSc in Real Estate. He is a quality focused Consultant, who believes strongly in forging lasting relationships with his candidates and clients alike. Shane’s main strength lies in his intuition, his understanding of the recruitment process and his ability to align his candidate’s career goals with his client’s requirements.

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