ICT managers, professionals and technicians belong to high shortage occupations for Ireland.

Looking at past, current and future trends (3-4 years), a number of occupations have been identified as mismatch priority occupations for Ireland, i.e. they are either in shortage of surplus. Shortage occupation: an occupation that is in short supply of workers, and for which the employers typically face difficulties finding a suitable candidate. Surplus occupation: an occupation for which there are plenty of suitable workers available but low demand. The employers have no problems filling such posts.

The list below is based on an assessment of the labour market of Ireland. The occupations presented are not given any rank. All of them present high mismatch.

Shortage Occupations

ICT Managers, Professionals and Technicians [1]

Demand across all ICT occupations is particularly strong in Ireland. For instance, in 2014 there were about 60 thousand people employed in ICT occupations, about 3% of total employment [2]. About half of this employment is in the ICT sector, and another 20% in manufacturing. Employment in ICT occupations grew at over 4% per year between 2009 and 2014, which is far ahead of the national average (+0.2%). Annual growth rates above 8% were observed among ICT user support technicians, and programmers and software developers. A 2012 report from the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs which examines the potential demand for high–level ICT skills at graduate and post-secondary diploma levels, arising both within the broad ICT sector and across other sectors of the economy, indicates a continuing strong demand for high-level ICT skills with 44.5 thousand job openings forecast to arise over the period to 2013-2018 from both expansion and replacement demand. [3] Research by LinkedIn that analysed all of the recruiting and hiring activity in Ireland in 2015 found that ICT skills dominated professional recruitment: cloud and distributed computing was the most desirable skill for Irish employers in 2015, and ICT skills appeared in nine of the top 10 list of skills in demand [4].Vacancy data indicates 6.5 thousand vacancies advertised through the PES and the www.Irishjobs.ie portal [5], and one-third of difficult-to-fill vacancies were in ICT. The supply of graduates in computing at ISCED 5 is just over 4 thousand and there are an additional estimated one thousand jobseekers with ISCED 5 qualifications and experience in the ICT sector. This is insufficient to meet increasing demand. In this context, almost 1.7 thousand employment permits were issued to ICT workers from outside the EEA in 2014.

The ICT sector is regarded as of vital strategic importance to Ireland, both in terms of the numbers of high skilled professionals employed and its contribution to export performance, accounting for €70 billion per year. ICT is also widely used across other sectors of the economy. The Irish Government launched the ICT Skills Action Plan 2014-2018 [6]. The action plan notes that Ireland is likely to face an average increase in demand for high-level ICT skills of around 5% a year out to 2018 with the employment of ICT professionals anticipated to rise to just over 91 thousand. Meeting the continuing strong domestic demand for ICT professional skills would require an increase in the numbers of high-quality computing and electronic/electrical engineering graduates, supplemented by higher education conversion courses [7] and upskilling programmes for jobseekers, further investment by business in employee training as well as through the enhancement of the skills pool in Ireland by the attraction of appropriately skilled professionals from across Europe and beyond. The action plan sets targets to: increase graduate supply (by over one thousand per year); provide ICT conversion courses and re-skilling programmes; improve maths skills in secondary education; promote continuing professional development; and attract experienced international talent by “increasing efficiency in the employment permits process”, to increase inflow of experienced ICT professionals to 2 thousand and encourage the return of expatriate Irish ICT professionals. Also, there are two programmes to provide training for unemployed people:

  1. The Springboard programme [8] provides third level courses (ISCED 5 or higher) in areas of identified skills shortages to the unemployed: there are a significant number of courses in ICT; and
  2. The Momentum programme offers education and training for about 6.5 thousand job seekers per year [9]. The programme aims to help jobseekers to gain skills and work experience in sectors of the economy where there are job opportunities. ICT is among the targeted sectors.

Engineering Professionals and Technicians [10]

In 2014 there were about 23 thousand people employed in a range of professional and technical occupations in manufacturing and scientific and technical activities, outside of civil engineering which is not regarded as suffering from skill shortages [11]. These engineering occupations represented around 1% of total national employment. Skill shortages were identified in most engineering fields (outside of civil engineering). About 50% of employment is in manufacturing (pharmaceuticals and machinery/equipment). Employment growth averaged 6.5% per year in the period between 2009 and 2014, well ahead of national average employment growth, and was over 11% per year for electrical/electronic engineers and production, design and quality control. There is significant supply of third level (ISCED 5) engineering graduates (over four thousand per year, about half of which are at ISCED 5 or above). There has been some increase between 2009 and 2013 in supply of graduates with engineering skills from higher education (ISCED 5) which should help to meet demand in the sector, although there has also been a decline in supply from the further education sector (ISCED 4). However, this has not been sufficient to meet demand and almost 400 engineers migrated from non-EEA countries to Ireland in 2014.

Skills shortages appear in several sectors (e.g. pharmaceuticals, medical devices, ICT hardware and machinery/equipment) that are key to export-led growth. In a context of high national unemployment, the Springboard programme [12] provides to the unemployed third level courses (ISCED 5 or higher) in areas of identified skills shortages: there are a significant number of courses in production engineering, pharmaceuticals and medical devices. A 2013 report on skills in manufacturing notes a lack of clarity about career paths linked to education and training (so that Ireland compares unfavourably with Germany (dual system, Meister pathway and strong apprenticeship-HE links) or the UK (Sectoral Skills Council) [13]. This suggests that solutions to skills shortages would require collaboration between enterprise and education and training providers to develop training linked to career trajectories. A recent report by Engineers Ireland advocated tax breaks for returning Irish-national emigrants with engineering skills [14].

Financial and Business Services Professionals [15]

In 2014, ‘Business and Financial Occupations’ accounted for the employment of 162 thousand professionals [16]. Shortages were identified in financial, insurance and real estate, and legal and accounting services. The largest numbers were employed in financial administrative occupations (54 thousand) and accounting and taxation (39 thousand) [17]. Between 2009 and 2014, overall employment in Financial and Business Services declined modestly. However, there was very strong growth among management consultants, business analysts and project managers, business associate professionals (at 12% annually) and financial accounts managers (almost 10% per year). Furthermore, in 2014 financial and business skills were in demand across almost all sectors of the economy, many in the financial and professional activities sectors. On the PES and Irishjobs.ie vacancy portals alone, there were 2.3 thousand vacancies for financial professionals (accountants, business analysts, actuaries and economists), 2.5 thousand for financial technicians (accounting, insurance and investment) and 2.5 thousand for financial clerks [18]. The supply of financial and business skills from the education system is strong: in 2014, there were 26 thousand further and higher education graduates from social science and business courses (including accounting and finance), of which 15 thousand were at ISCED 5 or above. Almost one thousand financial professionals and 400 financial technicians with third level qualifications were registered with the Department of Social Protection [19] in May 2015 as ‘job-ready’ jobseekers. However, shortages in the areas of business and finance continue to exist - there were over 350 work permits issued to non-EEA nationals. This may relate to the growing International Financial Services (IFS) sector in Ireland, which directly employs over 35 thousand people. [20]

The past 25 years has seen rapid growth in the IFS sector and Ireland is regarded internationally as a competitive location for IFS. In March 2015, the Government launched IFS2020, a new strategy for developing this sector. [21] With regards to skills, IFS2020 recognises the importance of skill supply and that IFS competes with other sectors for graduates in ICT, engineering, mathematics, data analytics, business and law. The strategy refers to the Springboard programme which supports third level courses at ISCED levels 4 and 5 in skills relevant to IFS. In 2014, Springboard funded over 600 places in IFS related higher education courses. In addition, the Finuas programme supports enterprise-led training in IFS through the establishment of training networks where groups of enterprises address joint training needs to develop skills of existing staff and some unemployed jobseekers. In 2014, almost 1.5 thousand employees and 100 unemployed jobseekers were trained in 226 companies, receiving a total of 17.5 thousand training days. The budget for Finuas consisted of €1.6 million from State funds and €860 thousand matching funds from IFS enterprises. [22] On the supply side, IFS2020 also makes reference to the need to increase awareness of IFS as an attractive career option among school and college students. On the demand side IFS2020 proposed the establishment of an IFS education and skills liaison group to encourage liaison between the IFS sector, education stakeholders and relevant Government agencies. Ireland is currently engaged in a reform of its apprenticeship system and proposes to extend its coverage beyond its traditional focus on manual skills in manufacturing and construction. Such an expanded apprenticeship system might prove suitable to developing skills particularly at ISCED 4 level for financial administration occupations.

Healthcare Occupations

Total employment in healthcare occupations was 103 thousand in 2014 [23]. Shortages are identified among Medical practitioners (with employment of 12 thousand), Nurses and midwives (55 thousand employed) and among Other health professionals (12 thousand employed). [24]Employment in healthcare grew by just over 1% per year in the period 2009-2014. Like many other EU countries, Ireland suffers from a shortage of medical doctors and nurses. The problem in Ireland was exacerbated by the economic crisis after 2008. Employment in healthcare was severely constrained as a consequence of public sector employment cutbacks and the recruitment embargo as part of austerity policies implemented after the economic crisis and the IMF-ECB-European Commission bailout programme. The recruitment embargo introduced in 2009 meant there were no jobs in the health service for the 1.5 thousand nurses and 727 doctors graduating each year. [25] As a consequence, there has been strong out-migration of health professionals trained in Ireland, accelerating since 2009. Emigration of health professionals is not just due to lack of jobs. Incomes in the health sector have also fallen in line with pay cuts across the public sector. Moreover, survey research of emigrant health workers shows that working conditions and lack of training and career opportunities have also been important push factors. [26]

The recruitment embargo was lifted in 2015, but growth in public expenditure on health, and on health workers, is expected to remain modest because of requirements for continued fiscal consolidation. Restoring health employment to pre-crisis staffing levels is challenging. In nursing alone, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation estimates that more than 4 thousand nurses will need to be hired to return the Irish nursing workforce to pre-crash levels of 39 thousand. Given graduate supply of nurses of the order of 1.5 thousand per year, and substantial exits from the profession, skills shortages are likely to endure for some time to come. One strategy has been to attempt to attract return migration. The Health Services Executive announced a recruitment campaign in 2015 aiming to attract 500 nurses and midwives working abroad, particularly in the UK. The package includes a tax-free sum of €1,500 to cover relocation. There is heavy reliance on immigration from outside the EEA to meet skills shortages: in 2014, a thousand employment permits were issued to non-EEA medical practitioners and 150 nurses. In order to stimulate the supply of medical doctors, the Department of Health increased the intake of medical students in recent years, although many of these students are non-EEA students (who pay higher tuition fees, which, in effect, cross-subsidise medical training) and non-EEA students have a higher propensity to emigrate upon graduation. The Department is also currently developing plans to restructure progression paths through specialist training “with a view of reducing the reliance on foreign doctors in non-consultant hospital grades and greater retention of Irish-trained doctors.” [27]

Other shortages

National stakeholders have identified additional important shortages for:

  1. Tool making at craft level [28]. This is a niche market, particularly for medical devices. The skills are strategically significant for high-end manufacturing, with regional concentration in the Sligo area;
  2. Chefs [29] - turnover is high in catering [30]. However, the extent of shortage is difficult to assess as employers tend to exaggerate it. This sector is also regarded as a route for migrants in ethnic restaurants;
  3. Computer numerical control (CNC) Operators [31] across all manufacturing industry. This is at the lower end of the skills spectrum. The shortage affects low and hi-tech manufacturing as it is difficult to convert traditional manufacturing operators to CNC skills;
  4. Multi-lingual occupations [32] in sales and marketing, customer care, and supply chain management for export markets. Ireland is a hub for customer care and marketing (e.g. PayPal) as well as a services export platform;
  5. Skilled tradespersons [33]. The construction sector experienced the largest relative annual employment growth, at 13% between 2013Q3 and 2014Q3. It has experienced a marked increase in vacancy notifications (+260% since 2011 and +47% since 2014), particularly for electricians and carpenters and surveyors; and
  6. Occupations with constant demand driven by high-churn volume e.g. lower skilled industrial occupations (such as operatives); retail assistants, supervisors and managers across a range of retail outlets as well as administration and support occupations – the main area of demand relates to contact centre roles with language skills. There is also evidence of cleaning and security guard roles appearing frequently in vacancy data.

Responses and/or possible solutions to shortages include:

  1. Development of an apprenticeship programme by local/regional Education and Training Boards (ETBs) and Institutes of Technology (IOTs) [34];
  2. Development of new apprenticeships and Momentum programmes, to be announced in 2016;
  3. Development of new course in regional ETBs;
  4. Recruitment of migrants with both English and foreign language skills through the EURES system. There is also a need for better language training in the Irish educational system [35]; and
  5. Part of the response may be to harness the skills of unqualified building workers with experience in the sector – there is a need to develop a system for recognition of prior learning.

Surplus Occupations

The Great Recession hit Ireland particularly hard from 2008 to about 2012. The property-price collapse, banking crisis, economic contraction and fiscal crisis of the state led to a severe deterioration in the labour market. Total employment fell by 14% (over 300 thousand) between 2007 and 2012, although, with recovery, employment increased by almost 5% in the following two years. The unemployment rate increased from less than 5% in 2008 to over 15% in 2012, and still stood at 10% in 2014. Employment losses were concentrated in Construction (61% drop between 2007 and 2012); in Administrative and support services activities (-22%); Manufacturing (-17%) and Wholesale and retail trade (-14%). Job losses were concentrated in skilled trade occupations, mainly in construction and in low-skilled occupations. Analysis of Eurostat data indicates surpluses in a range of construction-related occupations: Mining and construction labourers [36]; Painters, building structure cleaners etc. [37]; Building frame and related trades [38]; and Building finishers and related trades [39]. Most of these skill surpluses relate specifically to the collapse in construction after 2008. Many surpluses in ‘Other elementary workers [40] are also likely to relate to construction. Employment in construction bottomed out around 2012 and there has been modest growth in recent years with the emergence of housing shortages. These increases have been modest and are not expected to approach the employment levels observed during the housing bubble. Surpluses have also been observed across a range of occupations in transport: Heavy truck and bus drivers [41]; Car, van and motorcycle drivers [42] and Transport and storage labourers [43]. These occupations are also mainly at low- to medium-skill levels. [44]

Responses to the employment crisis took the form of a reform of the Public Employment Service entailing a shift from passive to active labour market policy since about 2011. Much of that reform has entailed increased emphasis on encouraging and supporting job search as well as an increase in education and training provision. One example is the Springboard programme which provides free higher education courses to unemployed people leading to qualifications at ISCED levels 4 – 6. Courses aim to re-skill people in areas where there are job opportunities now and in the future – information and communications technology (ICT); high level manufacturing; international financial services; skills to trade internationally; and business start-up. Springboard has been implemented since 2011 and currently about 6 thousand people participate each year. The Momentum programme offers education and training for about 6.5 thousand job seekers per year [45]. The programme aims to help jobseekers gain skills and work experience in sectors of the economy where there are job opportunities. Targeted sectors include ICT, digital media, healthcare and social services, the green economy, food processing and sales and marketing. Most of the training is at ISCED level 3 or 4. With the economic and employment growth and the emergence of skill shortages, it may be time to shift the balance of provision in active labour market programmes from employment schemes, which account for about 60% of activity, and many of which have been found to achieve little to enhance participants’ employment prospects, to education and training. Within the latter, it may be advisable to rebalance training efforts in favour of training to meet identified skill needs, rather than on general education.

Note on the methodology

The list has been compiled by Cedefop in the first half of 2016 combining quantitative and qualitative methods. In particular, a list of mismatch occupations was formulated following quantitative analysis of labour market indicators. Country experts were then asked to build on and scrutinise this list. Their expert assessment and knowledge of the country’s labour market has provided rich insights about the reasons behind the skills shortages or surpluses at occupational level. These are also accompanied by measures and policies that aim to tackle such mismatches. Country’s stakeholders have also been included in validating the final list of occupations.

Find here more data and information about Ireland.


[1] ICT service managers (ISCO 133); ICT operations and user support technicians (351); Software and applications developers and analysts (251); Database and network professionals

[2] J. Behan, J. McNaboe, C. Shally and N. Burke (Skills and Labour Market Research Unit (SLMRU)), 2015, National Skills Bulletin 2015.

[5] Skills and Labour Market Research Unit (SLMRU), 2015, Vacancy Overview 2014.

[7] Conversion courses are post-graduate courses that allow graduates who have already earned an ISCED 5 level degree in a general field to train in more vocationally oriented fields – e.g. in teaching, IT, law or business.

[10] Physical and engineering science technicians (ISCO 311); Process control technicians (313); Medical and [pharmaceutical technicians (321); Engineering professionals (excluding electrotechnology) (214)

[11] Skills and Labour Market Research Unit (SLMRU), 2015, National Skills Bulletin 2015.

[13] Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (2013), Future Skills Requirements of the Manufacturing Sector to 2020

[15] Equivalent to ISCO 241, 242 and 331

[16] The analysis of Eurostat data identifies three specific occupations in Financial Services exhibiting skills shortages: Mathematicians, actuaries and statisticians (ISCO 212); Financial and mathematical associate professionals (331); and Finance Professionals (241). Combined, these three occupations accounted for just over 70,000 employed in 2014.

[17] Skills and Labour Market Research Unit (SLMRU), 2015, National Skills Bulletin 2015.

[18] Skills and Labour Market Research Unit (SLMRU), 2015, Vacancy Overview 2014.

[19] The Department of Social Protection is the Irish government department with responsibility for social welfare and implements policy in relation to the unemployed, inter alia.

[20] The International Financial Services (IFS) sector in Ireland comprises mainly about 430 companies supported by Irish development agencies IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland client companies. The foreign-owned sector accounts for about half the IFS companies and three quarters of employment in the sector.

[21] Government of Ireland, 2015, IFS2020: A Strategy for Ireland’s International Financial Services Sector 2015-2020.

[23] The analysis of Eurostat data identifies skills shortages in relation to 5 healthcare occupations; Traditional and complementary medicine professionals (223); Other health associate professionals (325); Medical Doctors (221); Other health professionals (226); and Medical and Pharmaceutical technicians (321) accounting for a total of almost 44,000 employees.

[24] SLMRU, 2015, National Skills Bulletin 2015.

[26] Humphries N, McAleese S, Matthews A, Brugha R. ‘Emigration is a matter of self-preservation. The working conditions are killing us slowly’: qualitative insights into health professional emigration from Ireland. Human Resources for Health. 2015; 13:35.

[27] Skills and Labour Market Research Unit (SLMRU), 2015, National Skills Bulletin 2015.

[28] ISCO 722

[29] ISCO 343

[30] Expert Group on Future Skills Needs, 2015, Assessment of Future Skills Requirements in

the Hospitality Sector in Ireland, 2015-2020.

[31] ISCO 81

[32] ISCO 524

[33] ISCO 71

[34] Skills and Labour Market Research Unit (SLMRU), 2015, National Skills Bulletin 2015, Pp 11-12.

[35] Expert Group on Future Skills Needs, 2015, Guidance for Higher Education providers on current and

future skills needs of enterprise: Springboard+ 2016 including ICT Skills Conversion.

[36] ISCO 931

[37] ISCO 713

[38] ISCO 711

[39] ISCO 712

[40] ISCO 962

[41] ISCO 833

[42] ISCO 834

[43] ISCO 933

[44] Surpluses of secretaries (general, ISCO 412) have also been identified in the Eurostat data. Such surpluses have not been flagged in national analyses and it may be possible to provide up-skilling to people with general secretarial skills to enable them to work in areas with identified skill shortages in business services.

Data insights details