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Full employment and the housing shortage

Full employment and the housing shortage

Full Employment and a Housing Shortage - An Opportunity, Not a Problem

Guest Blog by John Riordan, Director of Support for Shopify


The Central Bank just released the fourth quarterly bulletin of 2018 predicting a bright future for the Irish economy with growth to continue at a steady pace for at least the next three years. It is quite astonishing to see Ireland back in such good health with robust growth rates, full employment and negligible inflation. Other than the risk of an unruly and disorderly Brexit, the only ill-wind on the horizon is finding and retaining the talent to drive this growth.

When the Celtic Tiger roared between August 1997 and June 2008, we had less than 150,000 people unemployed and an unemployment rate hovering between 4% and 6%. This Central Bank bulletin is confirmation that we are now officially roaring back to the good days. The report predicts a further 154,000 jobs will be created by 2020 bringing the total labour employed to a record 2.35 million. With a predicted 2019 unemployment rate of less than 5% (nominal full employment), the first task facing all companies in Ireland - from SMEs to multinationals - is how to source this talent.

Our best chance of success is a repeat of the early 2000’s recipe of a continued influx of talent from elsewhere in Europe, the return of the Irish emigrant and an increased participation in the labour market - a euphemism for enabling more people who haven’t worked recently to return to the workforce. Our reputation as a welcoming society will bring the migrant workers and the intractable tug of the homeland will bring the diaspora back.

But the talent needs somewhere to live. There are more cranes in our cities than unlet apartments, so we have to find places for these people to work, live and contribute to society. Our major cities are bursting at the seams and commuting horror stories are once again the norm. 71,500 new homes will be built in the next three years and this will barely satisfy the current demand in our major cities - not to mind servicing the growth expected.

But we don’t have a housing crisis or a talent shortage in rural Ireland - we have a job shortage in rural Ireland. The solution is a paradigm shift towards embracing aspects of remote working that we eschewed up to now. Let’s call it by a more palatable and more meaningful name, SmartWorking - “using technology, connectivity and trust to empower employees to work agile whether from home, a hub, or in a hybrid model and measuring success on agreed output”. Simply put - let’s embrace a looser definition of the workplace and traditional work and use this as the key to unlocking the potential opportunity.

The next time you post a job vacancy, take a risk and put “Location: Remote” and see how many more applications you get. Or better yet, work directly with companies that specialise in remote workers, like and revel in the broader and deeper talent pool available to you.

It doesn’t have to be about new hires. Every employer can embrace Smart Working and enable more people to work from where they live. Encourage your commuters to work from home more often. Watch as their output and outlook changes. Remember, it is their output you are measuring, not whether they are sitting at a desk outside your office. If you are allowing them bring a laptop home and work in the evening, then you are, by default, a proponent of remote working. It’s time to move this up a notch and proactively encourage your employees to be more productive by working from home a few days a week. Encourage them to seek out a coworking hub in their locale. Retention will be driven by a trusted employee who gets to do the school run the odd time, who saves a few hours of commuting time a week, who saves a half tank of petrol,and crucially who will want to repay your trust with loyalty.

Commitments for 2019

  1. Hire people where they live - or want to live.
  2. Give your current staff the gift of trust and time - they will repay with loyalty.


John leads a variety of different customer support teams for Shopify, including groups in Ireland, Lithuania, Canada and the Philippines. The majority of John’s teams work from home, a business model he has evangelised for over the last 15 years in the US, UK and Ireland. John has spent much of his career in the US - working for Apple, Virgin Atlantic Airways, and US Airways. In 2010 John and his family returned to his hometown of Cork, Ireland where he now resides with his wife and two teenagers.

Download 'The Future of Business in Ireland: A Conversation with SMEs'


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