Sunday, December 8, 2013

8/12/2013: Forbes Claims v Reality

I wrote about Forbes' ludicrous 'rankings' relating to Ireland last week (here: But there is more to it than what I covered in the first post.

Forbes makes an assertion that Irish labour costs have declined over time. Have they? Really?

Here's CSO latest data (through Q2 2013) based on occupation and sector of employment. Not perfect, but tells us two things:

  1. Have earnings declined?
  2. If yes, have they declined in areas that are of relevance to investors?
Here are some charts:

Key occupational level of skills, traditionally associated with foreign investment in Ireland (we are not a cheap manufacturing location, after all, and make a claim that we compete on high skills) are Managers, Professionals and Associated Professionals. Chart above shows that for all sectors in the economy, average weekly wages in this occupational category rose between Q2 2010 and Q2 2013. The rate of increase ranges from 11.1% for Business & Services, to 10.9% for Industry, to 10.4% for all sectors. Public Sector posted weakest increase of 5.2%.

So, Forbes: no, there was no relevant decrease in wages that investors can be concerned with in deciding that Ireland is Numero Uno...

But, may be investors reading Forbes are into lower skilled occupational categories? Call centres and generic sales? So, take a look at the Clerical, Sales and Service Employees category next:

Things are a bit volatile here, but trends are all up, with exception for Public Sector. Industry - up 7.6%, Business & Services up 1.7%, all economy: up 0.4%, as Public Sector is down 9.9%.

So, Forbes: no, there was no relevant decrease in wages that investors can be concerned with in deciding that Ireland is Numero Uno...

However, of course Forbes investors might look toward Ireland as a manual workers paradise? While I have no idea why they would do so, let's just entertain this possibility:

Forbes' investors won't be looking at employing Production, Transport, Craft and Other Manual Workers in Ireland in Industry were they concerned with wages inflation. In this category, Irish weekly wages rose, on average, 1.5% in Q2 2013 compared to Q2 2010. Across Business and Services sector, wages for this category of least-skilled workers fell over the last 36 months, but by only 0.6%. Not exactly spectacular 'gains in competitiveness'. And across all economy - these were down just 0.7%. In Public Sector we registered a significant decrease of 6.6% in this employment category, but it is unlikely to be a point worthy of consideration for Forbes' investors...

So can anyone from Forbes, perhaps, explain, how on earth can these trends suggest massive competitiveness gains?

Lastly, there is the actual claim made by Forbes: "Nominal wages fell 17% between 2008 and 2011, which helped keep labor costs in check." In Q1-Q3 2013, average weekly wage in Ireland stood at EUR687.87 against same for Q1-Q3 2008 of EUR702.34. In other words, average wages have declined (based on Q1-Q3 averages) only 2.06%. In Q3 2013 average weekly earnings were 3.04% lower than in Q3 2008. Where do 17% come from, one wonders?..

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