Map of Europe showing European flags, including the Ireland flag.
Image: © Denys Rudyi/

Ireland’s attractiveness to overseas workers makes it an outlier in the EU

6 Dec 2023

According to data from August from the jobs website Indeed, Ireland is ranked among the top 15 countries in the world when it comes to attracting interest from overseas jobseekers.

A recent Eurobarometer report showed that Irish employers are looking to foreign shores to mitigate skills shortages. While the majority of European SMEs are currently battling skills shortages, not a lot are hiring talent from abroad – with the exception of Ireland.

According to the data, 21pc of Irish respondents said they had tried to hire talent from other EU countries and 20pc said they had tried to hire staff from outside the EU to fill skills gaps. By contrast, the averages for the EU27 countries were 14pc and 16pc respectively.

Why is Ireland so different from the EU27 average when it comes to its approach to hiring talent from abroad? The reason is twofold.

What the data says about Ireland

First of all, Ireland is considered a very attractive place to work by many people. According to data dating from August from the jobs website Indeed, Ireland is ranked among the top 15 countries in the world when it comes to attracting interest from overseas jobseekers. Indeed’s analysis looked at job search and click data for the 62 countries in which it has job sites. Ireland ranked 14th place.

Along with Luxembourg, ranked first place, and Austria, Ireland was the only other EU country in the top 15.

A total of 11.1pc of searches for jobs in Ireland on Indeed in June of this year originated from outside the country. Software development was the second most popular Irish job category for foreign workers, accounting for 6.4pc of all foreign clicks. Data released earlier this week from the 2022 Census showed a similar scenario. Non-Irish citizens outnumbered Irish citizens when it came to the percentage of workers in fields such as STEM and health.

Ireland was also one of the most sought-after destinations for Ukrainian workers fleeing the war; it ranked ahead of France, Italy and Switzerland on Indeed’s list.

English-speaking workforce gives us an edge

Among other factors, access to English-speaking jobs could be a big factor in Ireland’s popularity among foreign workers. “Our research shows that jobs in the EU are clearly not as attractive for foreign jobseekers compared to jobs in some large English-speaking countries,” said Pawel Adrjan, director of EMEA economic research at Indeed.

“In general, Indeed’s findings also suggest jobseekers from abroad are more likely to click on job postings in a given country when there is a significant cultural diaspora in that country and when there is linguistic or geographical proximity to their home nation,” he added.

“Ireland, for example, has already taken in a high number of Ukrainian refugees and has been very welcoming to those seeking refuge from the Russian invasion. This could help to explain why Ireland is among the top 10 countries for job searches for Ukrainians who have yet to leave their home country.”

A second factor influencing Ireland’s outlier status as an attractive destination compared to its EU counterparts is that the EU is somewhat limited by mobility, meaning workers can’t easily move from country to country. This is a problem the bloc is trying to remedy.

Calls for more ‘intra-mobility’ in the EU

According to a report by the online European news website The Local, the mobility issue is a large factor in the reason many of the region’s SMEs don’t hire workers from abroad. The Local’s report relies on data from the aforementioned Eurobarometer report and a study from October by Business Europe, a lobby group representing European and non-European SMEs.

Business Europe’s data on skills shortages and the need for what it called more “intra-mobility” for workers in the EU was based on a very small survey of 110 respondents. Almost two-thirds (60pc) of these respondents said that greater intra-mobility between EU countries and non-EU migration was needed to help offset skills gaps. Just 14pc disagreed outright. However, as the Eurobarometer report revealed, not a lot of employers are currently utilising the possibilities of mobility or migration – despite being open to it.

Skills shortages are most acute in technical (especially maths and IT) roles and engineering-related careers. The EU is attempting to make it easier for workers and employers alike to move between countries, which could make it easier for highly-skilled jobs in those areas to be filled.

However, those surveyed by Business Europe said that better information about migration and the recruitment of EU mobile workers is needed. The group suggested a website as one way the EU could provide such information to people.

Measures need to be taken to raise the attractiveness of the EU as a destination for skilled migrant workers while skills programmes and the uptake of training and education for workers need to be promoted more also. Europe’s authorities have been working to address both of these needs.

A game-changer or another big splash?

Last month, the European Commission proposed the creation of what it called “a new EU Talent Pool” to match employers in the EU with jobseekers in other countries. The platform will make international recruitment easier and it will aim to stick up for workers regarding fair labour conditions. The resource will be open for all member states to participate in voluntarily if it passes the final approval stage at the European Parliament and Council.

Margaritis Schinas, vice-president for Promoting our European Way of Life, described the EU Talent Pool as “a game-changer” for addressing skills gaps. In its report, Business Europe was slightly more cautious; its assessment said that “in terms of a policy response, the concept of an EU Talent Pool – if well-designed – is something that Business Europe sees good potential in as a complementary way to help reduce employers’ labour and skills needs”.

A very similar online ‘talent pool’ idea was piloted for Ukrainian workers fleeing the war in their country, so the EU Commission’s proposal could end up being rather similar.

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Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea joined Silicon Republic in 2021 as Careers reporter, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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