01 December 2005

Migrants now taking up half of the 100,000 new job places

Irish Independent

Brendan Keenan
Group Business Editor

MIGRANT workers, mostly from Eastern Europe, are fuelling an astonishing jobs boom, with employment growing by almost 100,000 in just 12 months.

Figures from the Central Statistics Office showed the labour force grew by 5pc in the 12 months to September, with almost two million people now at work. This is more than twice the rate of increase in the US, and five times that in Britain.

Immigrants accounted for almost half the 96,000 increase. But that left more than 50,000 Irish-born people finding jobs. Much of this was older people taking up employment, having been out of the labour force.

The scale of the boom was shown in the extra 10,000 people aged 60-65 who started work during the 12 months. About half of them were women, helping to bring the total percentage of females in the labour force to 53pc.

But trade unions expressed alarm over figures for industry which showed a drop of 11,000 in employment, even though 8,000 extra foreign workers were hired. They said this indicated that Irish workers are being replaced by cheaper immigrant labour.

"The numbers provide strong evidence to suggest that a policy of displacement of existing workers' jobs by cheaper migrant labour is already well under way in Irish industry," said SIPTU general president Jack O'Connor.

"Taken in conjunction with the fact that average hourly industrial earnings increased by only 2.4pc in the 12 months to June, when national pay rises alone should have yielded a 4pc increase, these figures confirm what Irish employers are currently about," he said.

Economists agree big changes in employment patterns are taking place. "This has important implications for the labour market and has exerted downward pressure on Irish wage rates," said Dermot O'Leary, economist at Goodbody Stockbrokers.

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