Telecommunication costs are the single biggest issue for 8.1pc of Irish firms, the Small Firms Association’s (SFA) 6th Annual National Business Survey has found.
SFA estimates that this means nearly 20,000 small businesses in Ireland consider the cost of their telecommunications the biggest drawback to operating their business.
Some 47pc of firms responded that telecommunications costs were a major problem for the business community in general. This puts it costs seventh in a league table of business gripes.
The cost of labour was the biggest issue for most businesses: 13pc identified it as their single biggest problem while 87pc said it was a problem generally.
Inflation, energy costs and skills shortages were the single biggest issues for 10.3pc, 10.1pc and 9.2pc of companies respectively.
“One of the major features of the Irish economy over the last few years has been the significant deterioration in competitiveness, falling from 5th to 14th in the World Competitiveness League in the last 10 years,” commented Patricia Callan, director, SFA. “The cost of doing business has increased significantly due to a combination of strong growth in wages, higher inflation, high energy costs, skill shortages and a more onerous regulatory environment.
“This survey clearly shows that costs in Ireland are rising more rapidly than in competitor countries.”
Highlighting the headaches caused by skills shortages, Callan criticised the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment’s handling of new visa and work permit procedures which came into effect earlier this year. Changes to the process are reported to have impacted on tech companies employing necessary skilled non-EU staff.
“The SFA welcomed the new arrangements for economic migration announced in January 2007. However, in the first six months of the new arrangements, small businesses around the country have been faced with poor customer service, long delays in processing of applications and excessive charges. The length of time it is taking the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment to process applications is unacceptable, with businesses experiencing delays from 10 to 12 weeks. It is completely unreasonable for a business to wait such an extensive length of time before a non-national can commence work.”
By Niall Byrne