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Jobs for the Boys – Increase in Male Employment in Ireland

Link Blog | August 20, 2014

This Article “Jobs for the Boys” will appear in the Employment \ Business section of the Dublin People on the 27th of Aug. Link Personnel Writes a weekly column in the paper on Employment Affairs.

Jobs for the Boys

Toward the end of 2008, one of the clear signals of a change in economic circumstances was the fall in the number of cranes at work around the country.

Previously the skies of Dublin and other cities were dotted with the symbols of a booming construction industry and economy. When circumstances changed, each crane decommissioned signalled the loss of many multiples of jobs in a sector that all but ground to a halt. Globally, the construction workforce is dominated by men.

Ireland was and is no different with men accounting for nine in 10 workers in the sector. No surprise then that the decreased activity in the building trade coincided with a sharp increase in the numbers of unemployed men.

Other traditionally male dominated industries like manufacturing and engineering also suffered significant job losses.

Women were by no means immune to redundancies, certainly not, but labour market trends during the period 2008-2012 hit men in this country particularly hard.

Male unemployment reached 18 per cent in 2012 (The highest in the EU) compared to 11 per cent unemployment for women. Long-term unemployment (Those out of work for more than 12 months) for men was 12.3 per cent compared to 5.5 per cent for women.

Job losses, and more importantly the lack of opportunities to take up new posts are bad for the economy but also for society. Long-term unemployment is particularly obnoxious. People out of work for long periods can lose skills and confidence, finding it harder to get back to work the longer they are out of it.

Men, who historically are more likely to tie self-esteem and self-confidence to having a job and earning money (which isn’t necessarily the right way to think), can become frustrated.

The good news is that over the last two years, but particularly the last 12 months, jobs for the boys have come back! Jobs expos still seek to attract Irish workers to jobs in New Zealand, Canada and elsewhere, but the notion that this is no country for young men is simply not true.

In line with a general rise in job opportunities, male dominated industries are also hiring.

The construction industry has seen employment rise for the last ten months in a row. New capital projects like the Luas link coming on stream, as well as renewed activity in home building mean there is no reason why that won’t continue. Last month the pace of growth in the construction of new homes was the fastest in the 15 year history of a survey carried out by Ulster Bank. This sharp percentage rise must be qualified by the fact that construction has been extremely low by historical standards in the last number of years, however there are a number of factors underpinning the rise in construction which suggest it is not just a temporary phenomenon. Firstly banks are lending again. Over 2000 mortgages a month were approved in the last year. In addition cash buyers continue to boost demand, especially in Dublin. This demand has seen prices rise significantly in the last year, a sign that isn’t good for the economy long term but which suggests that increased construction activity is probably required into the future to cater for it. Thirdly, a government scheme outlined in May will provide a €200m injection of capital for construction projects and social housing aiming to create 60000 new jobs in the sector.

Earlier this year online jobs boards reported that construction related vacancies were up 16 per cent compared to last year. There was growth of 17 per cent and 11 per cent rise in engineering and manufacturing opportunities respectively.

I am seeing opportunities in Manufacturing for Test Technicians in pharma/medical device companies for which I am crying out for qualified workers. Roles for Estimators and Quantity Surveyors are also coming in.

By the beginning of this year male unemployment had dropped to 13.8 per cent and long-term unemployment to 9.1 per cent (still far too high but a big improvement).

The drop in unemployment has continued since then and last month 2,600 less men signed on, marking 24 months of reductions in claimants and a 10.7% drop over the year. There were nearly 29,000 less males on the live register in July 2014 than the previous year.

Problems do remain. Long term and youth unemployment are still too high and to combat that, people should be incentivised to take up education and re-training to ensure they have the best chances of employment.

Those who took the opportunity to return to education when opportunities were scarce are more attractive to employers looking to hire again.

The lesson of the last recession is that unskilled or less educated people are more prone to losing their job so it stands to reason that people should be encouraged to stay in education longer.

There is opportunity everywhere for men (and women alike!) in all of those industries so badly affected in the recent past. The cranes may not all be back, but the foundations of recovery certainly seem to be laid. At a broader level it is vital that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past in relation to property and planning. It’s imperative that this recovery is managed properly and the benefits it brings not squandered by greed or ineptitude. In that way we can build a stronger, more attractive and more resilient economy.

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