South has ‘skills advantage’ over North

The Economic and Social Research Institute said there was a skills shortage could threaten economic growth in the Republic and the North, two think-tanks have warned. The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) said there was a “skills mismatch” in the Republic that could be a barrier to growth in the future, while the Nevin Economic Research Institute said the North was “trapped in a low-skills equilibrium”.

The ESRI said just under half of full-time Irish employees reported that their skills are greater than those required to do their job — the fourth highest rate of skill under-utilisation out of 28 EU countries, it said.

It said that the rate of ‘matched employment’ — where employees feel that their skills are matched to their job — is the fourth lowest in the EU at 46%.

By better aligning people’s skills and their jobs, we could potentially boost economic growth,” the think-tank said.

The research found that the share of highly-educated, foreign-born workers in Ireland is the third highest in the EU, at 57%.

In the North, many firms lack the skilled workforce to grow, said Nevin.

“We argue that it is trapped in a low-skills equilibrium, a situation where firms are predominantly engaged in low-value production providing low skilled and consequently low paid jobs. Firms may want to innovate and grow, but they lack the higher skilled workforce to do so. Workers would invest in their own skills, but the economy lacks the high skilled jobs that would reward them,” the body said.

Director Tom Healy said there is an urgent need for public policy to invest in raising skills.

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