Jun 29th, 2008 by Conor McCabe
This is part of a wider project, a study of work in the south of Ireland from 1926 to 2006. It’ll take more than a couple of years to get it finished (that is, to do it properly), but in the meantime I’ll throw up what I come across as I come across it. At the moment I’m playing around with the census returns regarding occupations. Now, the census figures come with certain provisos, but even so, the figures do have a value to them, and can tell us some things about the types of occupations in Ireland, and the types of job creation we’ve experienced in the past few years.
First of all, the census does not set out to ask directly what new jobs are there in the South. Instead, it asks people what they usually work at (even if currently unemployed). Once a comparison is made with previous figures, however, certain trends emerge. One of the variables in using the census to analysis job creation is the definitions people hold about themselves. For example, a lot of people may define themselves as managers, but in reality they’re glorified sales assistants. Also, the census asks people for their primary occupation - people working two or more jobs are counted as having only one job - or, one person, one occupation, and that’s it. It’s something I became acutely aware of when looking at the numbers of rural workers in the 1960s.
From 1961 to 1971 there was a huge drop-off in the number of sons and daughters who put as their primary occupation “working on family farm”. the figure went from around 80,000 to around 32,000 in only ten years. The change in occupation recorded by the census, however, was in primary status. Qualitative research (interviews, etc) will tell you that people still helped out on the family farm, but it was no longer the main job. (As an aside, I wonder if the huge shift from farm to PAYE employment in Ireland during this period, and on into the 1970s, was a factor in the subsequent protests? The increase in the number of people employed was not as dramatic as the economic shift from self-assessment to PAYE. More work to be done, methinks.)
With regard to the study of work, the idea is to use the quantitative census figures in conjunction with other trade and employment figures, and contextualise both with qualitative data such as interviews, personal experiences, details of job descriptions, geographical layouts, etc. But, you’ll hear more about this as I carry on with it, so for now I’ll just throw up what I came across today - that is, the type of jobs created from 1991 to 2006.
So, with regard to job creation, here’s the top fifteen growths in occupation from 1991 to 2006.
What strikes me here is the number of chartered and certified management accountants - well over 6,000 in five years - and the amount of marketing managers - again, over 6,000 of them. Also, although construction figures prominently (with over 13,000 new labourers), there was also significant growth in industry, in particular, assembly and line workers, textile processing operatives, and food and drink processing operatives.
The figures for 1996 to 2002 show a huge increase in administrative and managerial staff. There are operative-type jobs, but mainly in the ambiguously-named “other plant, machine and process operatives” (just over 6,000). We also see a huge increase in computer programmers and managers, just over 9,000 of the former, and over 6,200 of the latter. However, the largest increase is in (non-governmental) clerical staff, with over 18,400 new filers, data processors, and general administration clerks. The number of new builders and builder contractors is also quite noticeable, well over 7,000 more of them in 2001 than in 1996. A clear sign that the Fianna Fáil and PD policy of stimulating the construction industry had the desired effect.
NEW JOBS BY INTERMEDIATE OCCUPATION GROUP, 1996 TO 2002 (TOP 15 GROUPINGS)
The figures for 2002 to 2006 show the FF/PD construction industry policy in overdrive. As above, the figures below focus in on the top fifteen areas of growth, and gone is any sign of significant increase in industrial production outside of construction. And again, significant growth in administration and management. However, the largest increase - outside of construction - was in shop assistants, petrol pump attendants, and check-out assistants, followed by (non-governmental) clerical workers.
NEW JOBS BY INTERMEDIATE OCCUPATION GROUP, 2002 TO 2006 (TOP 15 GROUPINGS)
With regard to the direction of the economy post 1996, the trend in uptake in construction occupations simply reflects other figures on housing construction and the general overheating of the building industry by the government through significant tax incentives. On a wider scale, it shows job creation skewered towards temporary employment in construction, alongside low-paid shop and clerical work. In the middle stands, well, “management”.
you’ve got to ask the question: with all these new people selling and filling and managing, who the fuck is actually making new stuff in the Irish economy for us to sell and file and manage?