A Facebook sign outside the company's Dublin office.
Image: © jordi2r/Stock.adobe.com

Could Facebook’s remote working policy upend Dublin’s tech hub?

14 Jun 2021

Facebook’s decision to allow for permanent remote working could have a profound impact on Dublin’s future for tech and living.

Last week, Facebook announced a significant change in its stance on remote working that could send ripples through Dublin’s Silicon Docks.

The tech giant, which employs around 6,000 people in Dublin, told staff that it will allow for permanent remote working after the pandemic.

Over the last 15 months of lockdowns, questions were raised in several industries about how remote or home working could remain in place. There is demand for non-office-based roles, but just how companies go about implementing these approaches is still taking shape.

Now Facebook staff will have the option of retaining their job at Facebook while based in another country in Europe. Staff who relocated to Ireland to take a job at Facebook can move home or others can opt to leave Ireland and its housing crisis behind, seeking more affordable living elsewhere in Europe.

The decision by Facebook has yet to be implemented and it will be some time before it’s fully in effect, but it has raised many questions about the impact on the cost of living in Dublin and what Big Tech recruiting will look like in the city moving forward.

Facebook and other large tech firms like Microsoft, Google and Apple are significant employers in the country, each with thousands of people. Should other companies follow Facebook’s lead, it could radically change both the accommodation rental market as well as the office rental market.

Speaking with RTÉ, head of Facebook Ireland Gareth Lambe said the company continues to hire in Dublin and the move “won’t have on balance a material impact on the growth of employment for Facebook in Ireland”.

Facebook has also said that plans for a new campus in Ballsbridge, which is still under construction, will proceed as planned.

But an exodus of existing highly paid tech workers could have a knock-on effect on rent prices in the city, while workers who leave would no longer be paying income tax in Ireland.

On the flipside, there will be many Facebook employees that have worked in Ireland for years and have settled down here.

However, there’s no indication that all tech giants share Facebook’s stance on remote working. While Twitter said early on in the pandemic that it would allow staff to work from home “forever”, Google said it will allow some workers around the world to work fully remote but will be pursuing a hybrid model for the most part. Hybrid appears to be the order for Amazon and Microsoft as well.

Any discussion around tech multinational activity in Ireland cannot be detached from the matter of corporation tax either.

As the lure that brought many Big Tech firms in the first place, Ireland’s corporation tax rate of 12.5pc has been a key part of the country’s foreign direct investment strategy.

Now, as global corporate tax reform proposals gather more steam than ever before, the prospect of change is very real. A rise in tax rates and recruitment policies that aren’t anchored to Dublin could have profound effects on Ireland.

Jonathan Keane
By Jonathan Keane

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin, covering VC funding, start-ups, fintech and the gig economy. He was previously a reporter at business news outlet Fora.

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