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Friday, November 12, 1999 Published at 11:23 GMT

Business: The Economy

Irish boom draws the Welsh

Dublin's fair city attracts many US companies

News that unemployed Welsh workers may commute to Dublin is the latest twist in the story of the booming Irish economy.

Welsh and Irish local authorities and job agencies have joined forces to match vacancies in Dublin with unemployed Welsh people.

The fact that Irish companies are willing to pay towards accommodation and ferry costs is an indication of how serious the Irish skills shortage is.

One quarter of Irish companies surveyed are looking for staff, a report by the Dublin-based Economic and Social Research Institute found recently.

Boomtime in Ireland

The skills shortage is one of the side effects of the booming Irish economy.

While in the mid 1980s, unemployment in Ireland was more than 15%, it is now just above 5%.

A mix of foreign direct investment, European Union subsidies and low interest rates helped turn the Irish economy around.

It is now one of the fastest growing economies in Europe, and on current trends is set to overtake the UK in per capita income within a few years.

[ image: Trinity graduates need no longer emigrate to get a job]
Trinity graduates need no longer emigrate to get a job
The boom has led to a wave of emigrants returning home and the number of people leaving Ireland has fallen 70% since 1990.

The flip side is that many more non-Irish people are choosing to move to Ireland. Last year, the Irish statistics office reported an immigration total of 44,000, with 21,000 coming from the UK.

UK emigrants may enjoy cheaper petrol and cigarettes, but will face heavier taxes on what is likely to be a lower salary.

But both skilled and unskilled workers will have plenty of jobs to choose from.

The staff shortage "is most acutely felt on the east coast and in the IT sector", a spokesman for the Irish Development Agency ( IDA) said.

The Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC) says staff shortages exist right across the spectrum.

"( It ranges) from very specific jobs such as certain types of engineers and technicians, not to mention the global shortage of computer scientists. It also ranges down to lower skill type of occupations," an IBEC spokesman said.

Boxing clever

Even companies who have the staff they want find it difficult to keep them.

Computer manufacturer Dell has introduced a free weekly lottery with TV's, videos, foreign holidays and a car as prizes to encourage its 3,400 staff to stay.

"One IT company gives regular neck and shoulder massage for their stressed employees," the IBEC spokesman said. "They are boxing clever, in terms of non-monetary incentives."

Companies are also exploring greater use of profit sharing schemes. At the forthcoming national wage agreement discussions, gainsharing - a form of profit related pay linked to the performance of the company - is being discussed.

Companies are also looking at child care, in order to encourage women with children back into the workforce.

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