Employment Projections 2012-2020 (January 2014)


In the early 1990s, the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), in collaboration with FÁS, developed an occupational employment forecasting model. In 2009, the model was transferred from the ESRI to the Skills and Labour Market Unit (SLMRU) (then based in FÁS).  Since then, the Unit (now based in SOLAS) has been responsible for the maintenance and updating of the model and the production of employment projections at occupational level.

This is the second occupational employment projections report produced by the SLMRU. For the purposes of this report, the original model was updated and re-estimated to facilitate the move to a new version of the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC2010) and sectoral classification (NACE Rev 2).


The objective of this report is to provide an indication of how economic growth (as projected in the three ESRI Medium Term Review (MTR) 2013-2020 scenarios ) is likely to impact on employment at occupational levelBy outlining alternative scenarios regarding labour market developments at occupational level to 2020, the report aims to support decision-making in the areas of education and training provision, labour market policy, immigration policy and career guidance.


Projections are based on the sectoral employment forecasts published by the ESRI MediumTerm Review 2013-2020 in July2013.  Sectoral forecasts are translated in to occupational projections using a shift-share methodology, which allows for the decomposition of the drivers of employment grow that occupational level into:

  • scale effect: employment growth in the economy as a whole
  • sectoral effect: growth arising from sectoral employment growth; for instance, if employment in a sector grows faster than the overall employment, the sectoral effect is positive
  • occupational effect: growth arising from the change in the occupational profile of employment within sectors

Intrepreting the Projections

Like all quantitative models, the model presented here is limited in its capacity to perfectly capture the complexity of the Irish labour market. Projections generated using the model are not predictions of what will happen, but rather an illustration of possible outcomes, particularly in terms of the direction of changeThe following are two key assumptions under pinning the occupational projections:

  • the ESRI HERMES model and the scenarios developed in the MTR2013-2020 provide a good approximation of the state of the Irish economy in 2020; the scenarios are based on assumptions regarding the performance of the Irish economy including the global economy,the EU growth path, domestic policies, fiscal responses, wage adjustments, migration flows, labour market participation, etc. (These assumptions are outlined in detail in the MTR2013-2020.)
  •       the shifts in the sub-sectoral, occupational and educational profile of employment within sectors, observed over the period quarter 1 2007 to quarter 1 2013, will continue over the projection period 2012-2020.

While the projections presented here areuseful in assessing the direction of change and provide some indication of potential expansion demand for each scenario considered, the actual demand regarding each occupational group and each education level will depend on the magnitude of the replacement demand (arising from retirements and other exits)and up skilling requirements arising from reasons other than those captured in the model(e.g. regulation, domestic or EU policy etc.).


The ESRI developed three scenarios for the growth of the Irish economy over the period 2013-2020:

  • recovery scenario: the EU economy grows,facilitating growth in the Irish economy, and the domestic policies succeed in restoring the banking system
  • delayed adjustment scenario (here referred to asconstrained creditscenario): the EU economy grows, however, there is a failure (due to domestic policy or other reasons) in resolving the remaining issues with the Irish banking sector, resulting in restricted credit supply to the enterprise sector and households;
  • stagnation scenario(here referred to aszombie EUscenario): the EU economy stagnates(due to deflationary fiscal policy, collapse of the euro and/or a lower productivity growth than anticipated), preventing growth in the Irish economy.

Occupational employment projections are developed for each of these scenarios.

In addition to the ESRI scenarios,we also examine (although in lesser detail)a scenario in which employment levels in the manufacturing sector increase over the projection period, breaking a downward trend observed over the last decade and in contrast to the scenarios forecast by the ESRI.This scenario broadly follows the projections outlined in the competitive manufacturingscenario of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs(EGFSN)study on the Future Skills Requirements of the Manufacturing Sector to 2020 (2013).


  • In absolute terms. employment in all occupations is expected to increase by the year 2020 (Table A.1); the exceptions are elementary occupations for which, if the EU economy does not resume growth in the medium term, employment would be lower than in 2012; for each scenario considered, employment growth is projected to be the strongest for professional and skilled trades occupations.


  • Over the period 2012-2020 the strongest employment growth is projected for:

-  construction occupations (employment increase to range from 20,000 in the 'zombie EU' scenario to over 40,000 in the 'recovery' scenario) (Figure A.1)

-  science, engineering and IT (STEM) occupations (10,000-23,000 for the combined professional and associate professional level), with IT occupations accounting for the majority of growth; in the 'competitive manufacturing' scenario employment growth in STEM occupations is greater by 10,000 compared to the recovery scenario (two thirds of which in science and engineering occupations)

-  legal, business and financial occupations (including financial clerks) combined (23,000-52,000)

  • Recovery would bring strong employment growth for sales occupations (over 40,000 for all sales related occupations, including managers and associate professionals in marketing and business development); however, lack of credit or a drag in the EU exports, would reduce employment growth to a quarter of that projected for the recovery scenario.

  • Operatives (excluding drivers) are expected to be negatively affected by the decline in manufacturing employment, but postively by the strong growth in the construction sector (construction operatives); overall, the employment change could range from no growth (weak EU) to an increase of 10,000 (recovery scenario); however, in the 'competitive manufacturing' scenario, employment growth in operative occupations is great than that projected in the recover scenario by 14,000.

  • Employment growth in the non-construction craft occupations is projected to range between 3,000 ('zombie EU' scenario) to 22,000 (recovery scenario); however, if employment in manufacturing actually increases in line with EGFSN projections ('competitive manufacturing' scenario) numbers employed in this occupation group could be by 12,000 greater than in the recovery scenario.


  • Slow growth is projected for education, health and social care occupations (2,500-22,000 for all three occupational groups at professional, associate professional and service levels combined, which is low given that over a quarter of a million persons are currently employed in these occupations).

  • The number of farmers is projected to decline by 13,000 in each scenario considered.

  • The employment projections presented here imply a change in the occupational distribution of employment between 2012-2020: an increase in the employment share is projected for skilled trade, managerial, sales and operative occupations; no change in the shares for the professionals and associate professionals and a decline in the shares for administrative, elementary and service occupations.

To view the full report Click here (PDF, 93 pages, 1,466KB)

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