The Hays Global Skills Index has good news for Ireland, but the key stakeholders must play their part if the country is to build the right labour market dynamics for recovery, says Hays Ireland MD Richard Eardley.
The Global Skills Index published yesterday by Hays, the global recruitment specialists, found that Ireland’s score had increased over its 2013 rating. Eardley said this is a reflection of a tightening of the availability of skilled labour in the Irish workforce.
“What this means is that there is a widening gap between supply and demand,” Eardley added.
The good news is the report identified an increasingly secure economic recovery for Ireland, citing expected growth of 2.8pc for 2014. However, this also brings its own challenges, said Eardley.
“The challenge is that the demand tends to be in the high-skilled areas, exacerbating that skills gap that we have already got. The other thing is, as that demand increases we are already seeing wage pressure. That will start in those high-skilled sectors, but inevitably that then reaches across to other sectors, as well.”
The Hays Global Skills Index is an annual report that assesses the dynamics of skilled labour markets across 31 countries. This year, Ireland’s overall score increased to 5.8 out of 10 – up from 5.5 in 2013. The scoring is based on seven key indicators: education flexibility; labour market participation; labour market flexibility; talent mismatch; overall wage pressure; wage pressure in high-skill industries; and wage pressure in high-skill occupations.
Key also to Ireland’s marked improvement has been its high international PISA rating – this measures secondary school pupils’ literacy, numeracy and science ability – and less restrictive labour market regulations.
That said, Eardley pointed to a key finding, the high level of ‘talent mismatch’ in the Irish economy. Of course, this is particularly the case in the high-tech space, and an issue for other countries also, particularly the US. So what can Ireland do?
Multi-stakeholder approach needed
Eardley conceded there is no single solution, and there is no party that has all the answers.
“There are a variety of initiatives that the various stakeholders need to undertake to address the issue.
“If you look at the role of the State, it needs to have the right infrastructure and frameworks in place when it comes to legislation around immigration issues,” said Eardley.
“We lag behind best practice when it comes to this. While good work has been done on streamlining the visa process, there is a fundamental flaw in that the visa is associated with the employment rather than the employee. When you’re competing for these skilled people on a global basis, then you don’t want to make it easier to go to, say, Australia, than come here.”
He said the educational establishments, too, have a role to play in reviewing the courses that are provided, and ensuring students are getting real-life business experience.
However, industry, too, must play its part, said Eardley.
“I think business needs to be a little bit more flexible in how it is approaching hiring. We have countless job specifications that read the same, with very specific requirements. I think it is shortsighted, and (businesses) should be a little bit more flexible. They should be willing to take people with a little less experience and help them develop those skill sets.
“Or they might look at taking more mature candidates with different skill sets that are transferable. Otherwise you have so many employers all chasing exactly the same sort of candidate. It might be time for them to take a more long-term point of view,” said Eardley.
Overall, Eardley said it is great news that Ireland has been making inroads to reduce unemployment and drive up productivity. However, the issues need to be tackled, he said, if Ireland is to ensure the right labour market dynamics for economic recovery.