Rising living costs and the accommodation crisis are beginning to make the Irish digital sector less Dublin-centric.
Up until now, a Dublin location was a given for digital companies and tech jobseekers, but the trend is edging towards regional locations as candidates seek a better quality of life and more bang for their buck.
The Salary Survey for 2019 by Prosperity Recruitment revealed that the digital economy in Ireland has already reached full employment and has been there for at least 12 months, creating increasing competition for seeking candidates.
‘The digital economy is set to contribute €22bn to the nation’s GDP by 2020. It is a very big deal. And the Dublin accommodation crisis is a very big challenge to the digital economy’
– GARY MULLAN
This has put pressure on salaries. While salaries have increased by about 5pc over the last year, some skills are seeing increases to the extent that there are often bidding wars for candidates, especially data, user experience (UX) and programmatic specialists.
Another trend worth noting is that senior candidates who have been with multinationals at least eight years are open to getting back to working in SMEs to recapture their entrepreneurial spirit.
But a significant takeaway is that the Dublin-centric tendency is easing and Prosperity said it is seeing a growing appetite from digital and tech companies to locate to areas outside Dublin, and a parallel willingness from jobseekers to work in regional locations.
“We are finding that jobseekers are fed up with many aspects of working in Dublin, particularly in that such a large share of their net income can be devoted to accommodation, childcare costs and commuting,” said Gary Mullan, CEO of Prosperity Recruitment. “Companies are prepared to pay market salaries to candidates who work in regional locations; however, the take-home pay is considerably more.”
A survey of 150 candidates in the Irish digital tech sector, many of whom are currently living in Dublin, returned a clear dissatisfaction with both the cost and availability of accommodation in Dublin, and a marked openness to working in rural areas of Ireland.
It found that 74pc of respondents stated that they strongly agreed/agreed that the cost of accommodation in Dublin would make them consider a job in other areas of Ireland. A similar percentage indicated that the lack of availability of accommodation in Dublin would make them consider a job in other regions.
Around 82pc of respondents strongly agreed/agreed that an easier commute would make them consider a job in areas of Ireland other than Dublin, while 87pc strongly agreed/agreed that an improved quality of life would make them consider a job elsewhere in Ireland.
The survey returned many interesting comments, with the lack and cost of accommodation frequently cited as major issues for many people. One respondent stated: “I don’t like the idea of sharing a house with 10 other people just to make ends meet!”
The time and stress devoted to commuting as well as the cost of childcare in Dublin are also considered to be the major drawbacks of city living for many of the respondents.
Several stated that they are currently working remotely for Dublin-based companies. These tended to be mostly tech candidates. Meanwhile, other highly sought-after candidates stated that they would only make a long-term commitment to a Dublin-based company if they would be allowed to work remotely.
While some enjoy the buzz of Dublin’s social and weekend life, many of the city’s digital media and tech workers are maturing, and are more concerned about things such as choice of schools. One tech worker stated: “I would love to live outside of Dublin for a better quality of life and higher income-expense ratio, provided that I have good services in the locality (hypermarkets, schools, shopping centres and possibly an interesting community of people). The objective is not to have a negative impact on the family (I have small kids) when living out of the city; that’s my priority.”
Fields of dreams
Start-up hubs such as the Guinness Enterprise Centre (GEC) in Dublin are already cottoning on to the change in appetite. The GEC has a goal to network with 120 regional enterprise hubs across Ireland that are sprouting up in places from Sligo to Meath and Kilkenny, to name a few.
Centres ranging from Skibbereen’s Ludgate Hub to Sneem Digital Hub, the Building Block in Sligo, Crystal Valley in Waterford and PorterShed in Galway, supported by high-speed broadband and State agencies such as IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, are already poised to capitalise on the shift away from expensive cities. They are creating a blueprint for creative workspaces for workers from large city-based companies or agile start-ups who choose to work regionally and remotely for lifestyle reasons. Ludgate, for example, aims to generate 500 direct jobs and 1,000 indirect jobs in the coming years.
In 2017, Cork had one of the highest concentrations of tech companies while Limerick won the largest amount of funding and is already fostering its own sports tech hub, which set out to bring 500 jobs to region.
It is not only workers themselves who are dissatisfied, but infrastructural constraints on the Dublin digital and tech economy have seen the city slip in the 2018 IMD World Competitiveness Ranking from sixth place to 12th.
“I have no doubt that the competitiveness ranking decline is down to the fact that the digital and tech economy is largely centred on Dublin, with its excruciating lack of decent accommodation and, with that, spiralling rents,” Mullan warned.
“The digital economy is set to contribute €22bn to the nation’s GDP by 2020. It is a very big deal. And the Dublin accommodation crisis is a very big challenge to the digital economy. I hear it day in and day out from clients and candidates, and I often have conversations with companies who are interested in locating to Ireland. We get a lot of calls from such companies seeking information on availability of talent and salary scales.
“When I follow up with these companies, they often tell me that they have been deterred by the horror stories that are circulating about accommodation in Dublin. I now tell make a point of telling such callers: ‘Go west!’”