Ireland has a population growth of more than five times compared to the EU average. In the year 2017, Ireland’s population rose by 1.1% per annum, a lot larger than the average for the EU of .2%. Additionally, Ireland had the highest birth rate of any EU member with 12.9 births per 1000 people.
A growing population is great for the economy; however, it causes additional problems as well. One of these problems is a major housing shortage, especially within the more densely populated cities, like Dublin.
One of the roadblocks that Ireland faces with improving the housing shortage is the lack of construction workers. At the current rate, it will be nearly impossible to keep up with the growing population in densely populated Irish cities. Attracting construction workers from abroad could be a short-term fix and become long-term. Additionally, an increase in construction workers would stabilize pay and lower costs for construction companies. Professor Alan Ahearne, Director of Whitaker Institute and Professor of Economics at the National University of Ireland, is worried that a large influx of workers would not be able to find enough houses to live in or afford to rent. To counter that issue, setting up affordable apartments or social housing with short commutes to Dublin could be a solution.
The Celtic Tiger era had more than 220,000 workers employed in construction, compared to 134,000 workers currently employed. Tom Parlon, Director of Construction Industry Federation (CIF), stated, “Ireland is facing a growing need for talent and skills in construction and while concerning, this is a very good news story for those abroad with construction experience and trades, who may be thinking of coming home. Now is a very good time to re-enter the industry, there are lots of opportunities available.” When the major recession hit many people fled Ireland including construction workers, the hope would be to have many of those people return due to the stronger economy and numerous jobs available.
It would not be difficult for people looking for work in other EU countries to move to Ireland. Article 45 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU allows citizens to work in another EU country without needing a work permit. If Brexit rules in favor of the UK, increased number of people could be immigrating to Ireland as well.
The lack of construction workers is hindering Ireland from getting out of their current housing shortage. If they could find a way to attract more construction workers to move to Ireland house prices could stabilize and affordability in or near city centers could be more prevalent.